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Have special envoy`s reports on Volcker probe: PMO

Last Updated: Monday, May 27, 2013 - 18:15

New Delhi: Doing a volte face after five years, Prime Minister`s Office has admitted before the Central Information Commission that reports given by the then special envoy Virendra Dayal on Volcker Committee which probed oil-for-food scam are with it but cannot be made public.

The PMO`s change in stand came five years after it had claimed before the then Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah that it did not hold the reports.

Also, the Enforcement Directorate, which had even challenged in the Supreme Court Habibullah`s order to produce files related to the reports before him, took an about turn and claimed in a recent hearing that the reports were not with it.

The discrepancies in Government positions were evident during the hearing on RTI application of Arun Agrawal, who wanted the reports to be made public. A full bench of the Commission comprising two former bureaucrats--Satyananda Mishra and ML Sharma--and Annapurna Dixit decided against their disclosure.

"We are of the opinion that it would not be expedient to furnish copies thereof to the appellant as doing so may adversely affect the friendly relations of India with the foreign countries under reference," the Bench held.

The Paul Volcker Committee was set up by the UN in April, 2004 to probe corruption and fraud in its oil-for-food programme in Iraq in which some Indian politicians were alleged benficiaries.

The controversy over oil-for-food scam led to the ouster of former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh from the Cabinet in 2004.

The curious case relates to a seven-year-old RTI application filed by Agrawal who sought to know from the PMO the entire information in file relating to the appointment of special envoy Virendra Dayal, papers relating to Volcker report, scope of his brief and his report after meeting the UN officials.

In 2006, the PMO had refused to make public the reports citing exemption clauses of the RTI Act but in 2008 all three key departments--External Affairs, Finance and PMO said before Habibullah that the report was not in their possession.

PTI

First Published: Monday, May 27, 2013 - 18:15
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