CAG submits Rafale audit report to President, table in Parliament soon

CAG submits Rafale audit report to President, table in Parliament soon

Courtesy : Agencies14/02/2019 08:06

A report by the government’s top auditor, CAG, into the big-ticket military procurement including 36 Rafale fighter jets has been submitted to President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday, clearing the decks for tabling the audit report in Parliament this week.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s performance audit report is expected to focus on the process adopted to firm up the deal and also, as an official familiar with the development put it, done a comparative analysis of the fighter jets’ pricing vis a vis the initial plan to buy 126 jets by the UPA government.

The report is likely to be tabled in the Parliament within the next two days. Wednesday is the last day of the last session of the 16th Lok Sabha before general elections due in the spring.

The submission of the report comes a day after the congress demanded that the top auditor Rajiv Mehrishi should recuse himself from auditing the deal as he was the finance secretary when the deal was negotiated.

Kapil Sibal said on Sunday that the party had met him twice to inform him about the scam and demanded that the deal should be probed “because it is corrupt”.

“But how can he initiate a probe against himself,” Sibal asked.

 Union Minister Arun Jaitley had promptly rebutted Sibal’s claims, accusing the Congress of casting aspersions on the institution based on a “falsehood”.

“After ten years in Government, former UPA ministers still don’t know that Finance Secretary is only a designation given to the senior most secretary in the finance ministry,” Jaitley said a series of tweets.

The Rafale issue was even raised before the Supreme Court, which did not find any substance in the allegations.

As far as the Rafale deal is concerned, the process of buying 126 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) began in June 2001 when the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in office.

Under the original proposal, 18 warplanes were to be procured in a fly-away condition and the remaining 108 aircraft were to be manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under licence.

The bidding process commenced in August 2007, when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in office, but it was completed only five years later when Dassault Aviation of France, the maker of Rafale fighter planes, emerged as the front-runner ; the government started negotiations with the company which went on until 2014, when the UPA government lost elections and a new NDA dispensation took charge under Narendra Modi.

The NDA government’s decision to enter an $8.7 billion government-to-government deal with France to buy 36 Rafale warplanes was finally announced in April 2015, with an agreement signed a little over a year later. This replaced the UPA-era decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft.

The deal has become controversial with the opposition, led by the Congress, claiming that the price at which India is buying Rafale aircraft now is Rs 1,670 crore for each, three times the Rs 526 crore, the initial bid by the company when the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft. It has also claimed the previous deal included a technology transfer agreement with HAL.

The NDA has not disclosed details of the price, but the UPA deal, struck in 2012, was not a viable one, former defence minister Manohar Parrikar has previously said, implying that it would have never been closed and that, therefore, any comparison is moot. Indeed, the UPA was not able to close the deal till 2014, largely over discussions related to pricing of items not included in the initial bid.


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