New Delhi | BJP today demanded that the Public Accounts Committee take up the contentious AgustaWestland issue as the parliamentary audit watchdog held its first meeting after being reconstituted. The meeting also saw a TMC member questioning the probe by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Shashi Kant Sharma into defence deals, saying there could be conflict of interest as he is a former defence secretary.
Sources said that Vijay Goel of BJP asserted that the PAC must examine the report of the CAG on AgustaWestland, which was submitted in 2013. He was supported by BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab who said there should not be any issue in PAC examining such matters, including those which are being probed by investigation agencies or looked into by courts. He cited the coal scam as a precedent.
PAC Chairman K V Thomas, however, remained non-committal over these demands. He is learnt to have said they can discuss it later as today’s meeting was confined to deciding on subjects the panel has to look into over the next year. TMC member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy noted that the CAG is examining a number of issues, including defence purchases which were made in the past.
She said that Sharma had served in the ministry and there could be questions about conflict of interest. He made these remarks in the presence of the CAG who had appeared before the panel to make his customary briefing before the first meeting of the reconstituted committee.
Roy also suggested that the panel take up the CAG report on purchase of trainee aircraft in which the audit watchdog has found certain irregularities. Kirit Somaiya of BJP wanted the panel to speedily examine the issue of NPA of banks while Shantaram Naik of Congress wanted it to take up the issue PPP model again. The previous committee had recommended that the PAC should also have the power to examine PPP projects as public money is involved there.