PAC Chairman Joshi trains guns on Oil Ministry over Reliance allegations

BJP leader and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament — which examines the revenue and expenditure of the government — Murli Manohar Joshi has urged the petroleum ministry to reply to the draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) as soon as possible.

He questioned the statement by the oil ministry that it needs time to study the draft CAG report on whether government officials colluded with those of Reliance Industries (promoted by India’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani) and allowed the latter to show higher expenses on oil production that was legitimate.

Joshi seemed to hint that the Government has been sitting on the Reliance report from CAG for a long time. “What I want to ask is when did they get the report? How long will they take to vet it,” he said.

He pointed out that the oil ministry’s contention that it needs to read the draft properly was misleading. “This is not a one-stage process.. The draft is actually the third stage. Before the draft report, the CAG sends a detailed questionnaire raising its doubts on each point as asking it to comment point by point.. These comments and justifications are incorporated in the draft report,” Joshi said.

Joshi also trained his guns on the group of ministers who allowed Reliance Industries to charge a price of $4.2 for gas when government companies were selling the same gas for $1.8 per unit.

“Why did you increase the price of gas so much. why are you allowing them too loot others? What was the justification for the formula [under which gas was valued?] Under what pressure did the eGoM take these decisions? How much losses were caused by this to the government,” Joshi asked. “This is not countering corruption, but encouraging the corrupt,” he said.

Joshi’s questions mirror those raised by Anil Ambani, the brother of Reliance Industries’ chairman, in front-page ads across the country during a dispute between the siblings. Anil Ambani had alleged that the government was allowing Reliance to charge very high price for the gas, even though the cost of producing the gas was very low.

“The cost of production is 1.2 (dollars), but the price was more than 4,” Joshi pointed out.

Petroleum minister Murli Deora was soon shunted out of the oil ministry after the controversy over the gas prices.