Cong leaders meet CAG on Rafale deal, demand early report on ‘irregularities’
New Delhi, Sep 19 : A Congress delegation Wednesday met the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) over alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal, and said the federal auditor was “already examining” the entire issue and assured its leaders of submitting a report to Parliament soon.
The delegation of senior Congress leaders met CAG Rajiv Mehrishi and handed over a memorandum, accusing the government of causing loss to the public exchequer and endangering national security by bypassing state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in favour of some businessman “friends” for offset contract.
The Congress has alleged that the fresh deal for Rafale fighter jets was inked by the Narendra Modi dispensation at a cost much higher than what was negotiated by the previous government led by it.
“The CAG pointed out that it is his constitutional and fundamental duty to audit all such purchases, procedures, award of contract and the CAG said that they are already examining the entire Rafale deal. They are examining the papers, they are examining the payments made, and they are examining the procedure and its violation.
“They assured that they will look at all the documents that we have brought in public domain and that they will very soon be submitting a report to Parliament after examining all the contentions raised by the Congress party,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
He said the government is bound to provide full information to the CAG. “The government is bound to disclose the price of 36 aircraft to scrutiny by the CAG, in accordance with law and there has to be a similar disclosure to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC), and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence,” he said.
In its memorandum, the Congress alleged violation of the mandatory provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedure in the “unilateral” purchase of 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation and that public exchequer lost Rs 41,000 crore due to the purchase.
The party said while the previous UPA government was buying Rafale jets for Rs 526 crore a piece, the rate fixed by the Modi dispensation was Rs 1,670 crore.
“We request the CAG to undertake its constitutional duty by conducting a time bound special and forensic audit by examining the record threadbare, so that the truth is told to the people of India in a comprehensive and transparent manner affixing the responsibility of the Modi government,” the Congress memorandum said.
The party earlier demanded a probe by a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) into the alleged irregularities in the deal.
The government has rejected any kind of JPC or CAG probe into the deal, saying an inquiry cannot be set up only to satisfy the ego of an “ill-informed” leader of the opposition party who “repeats lies”.
The government has been maintaining that HAL could not finalise the offset deal during the UPA dispensation as the then Manmohan Singh government did not support the public-sector aerospace company to enhance its infrastructure for manufacturing the aircraft in India under the transfer of technology.
Under India’s offset policy, foreign defence entities are mandated to spend at least 30 per cent of the total contract value in India through procurement of components or setting up of research and development facilities.
Prasad said that former defence minister A K Antony has a lot to answer for keeping HAL, which was to be offset partner of the French maker of Rafale jets, in the lurch despite being in office for eight years.
“I don’t think JPC or CAG inquiry is set up to satisfy the ego of an ill-informed leader who repeats lies with alarming regularity,” the Law Minister told reporters, in an apparent attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress has also alleged that the government was “unforgivably guilty” of “compromising” national interest and national security.
“The manner in which the deal to buy medium multi-role combat aircraft was suddenly shelved, the shoddy cover-up, the self-defeating assertions and the deliberate lies have caused grave apprehensions in the minds of the Indian people vis-à-vis a major scandal in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter Jets. Insurmountable loss caused to public exchequer stands exposed as government refuses to state the truth…Modi Government remains opaque, intransient, obscure and obstinate to cover up the Rafale scam,” the memorandum read.
The Congress delegation included Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh, Randeep Surjewala and Mukul Wasnik.
Sharma said the party has given a detailed memorandum, along with enclosures on “irregularities” and “acts of omission and commission” by the government in the fighter jet deal.
“We expect the CAG will prepare a report soon and present it before Parliament,” he said.
Surjewala added, “We pointed out as to how Modi Government and Prime Minister Modi personally are responsible for violating the Defence Procurement Procedure.”
The Congress has stepped up the attack on the government over the Rafale deal and is seeking to make it a major poll issue ahead of assembly elections in some key states later this year and the parliamentary election in 2019.