Rafale au­dit: Cong asks CAG Mehrishi to re­cuse him­self

Millennium Post - - Front Page -

NEW DELHI: The much-awaited Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral’s (CAG) re­port on the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal is likely to be sub­mit­ted to the govern­ment by the au­di­tor on Mon­day for its tabling in the on­go­ing Bud­get ses­sion of Par­lia­ment which has its last sched­uled sit­ting on Wed­nes­day.

As per prac­tice, once a CAG re­port is sub­mit­ted, a copy sent to the Pres­i­dent and one copy for­warded to the fi­nance min­istry, the govern­ment de­cides on the date and time of its tabling be­fore Par­lia­ment, some­times de­layed by months. Af­ter tabling in Par­lia­ment, CAG re­ports are sent to the Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee (PAC), headed by the Op­po­si­tion leader, for eval­u­a­tion and fur­ther in­quiries, if needed. At present Congress leader, Mal­likar­jun Kharge is the PAC chair­man.

The fed­eral au­di­tor has con­ducted a thor­ough re­view of the Rafale deal, the process has taken more than a year, and has gone into its pric­ing, re­quest for pro­pos­als re­ceived from com­peti­tors, if any, and com­par­a­tive pric­ing of other fighter jets avail­able glob­ally.

The govern­ment to govern­ment Rafale deal was signed on Septem­ber 23, 2016, for the pur­chase of 36 Rafale fighter planes in fly­away con­di­tion along with weaponry and main­te­nance con­tract. The CAG is also likely to look into a 50% off­set con­tract given to pri­vate par­ties in In­dia by Das­sault, the French maker of the air­craft.

Soon af­ter the deal was signed, the NDA govern­ment had in­formed Par­lia­ment in re­sponse to a writ­ten ques­tion that each of the Rafale jets would cost the govern­ment ap­prox­i­mately Rs 670 crore.

Mean­while, al­leg­ing a con­flict of in­ter­est, the Congress on Sun­day re­quested Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral (CAG) Ra­jiv Mehrishi to re­cuse him­self from au­dit­ing the deal to pur­chase 36 Rafale fighter air­craft as he, as the then fi­nance sec­re­tary, was part of the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The op­po­si­tion party also said that it would be im­proper on the part of Mehrishi to present the re­port in Par­lia­ment.

In a press state­ment, the Congress has al­leged that the govern­ment com­pro­mised “na­tional in­ter­est” and “na­tional se­cu­rity” in the pur­chase of the 36 air­craft and said the CAG has a con­sti­tu­tional and statu­tory duty to un­der­take a foren­sic au­dit of all de­fence con­tracts, in­clud­ing the Rafale deal.

Se­nior Congress leader Kapil Sibal told re­porters that Mehrishi was the fi­nance sec­re­tary from Oc­to­ber 24, 2014, to Au­gust 30, 2015, and in be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi went to Paris on April 10, 2015, and an­nounced the sign­ing of the Rafale deal.

“He ob­vi­ously can­not probe de­ci­sions he took as fi­nance sec­re­tary. He will pro­tect him­self first and then his govern­ment. There can­not be a big­ger con­flict of in­ter­est than this,” he said.

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