A report by national auditor CAG on the Rafale deal for 36 fighter jets will be tabled in Parliament tomorrow, but sources say it does not mention pricing, the subject on which the government is facing opposition allegations of corruption.
The CAG report – officially called Capital Acquisitions for Air Force – will be submitted just a day before the end of the ongoing parliament session, the last before the national election due by May.
Sources say the auditor was “explicitly told by the Defence Ministry that pricing details can’t be shared because of national security”. There was a “lot of government pressure,” the sources told NDTV. The auditor agreed to keep pricing out of his report and carry out an audit on percentage terms.
The report compares the two bids of 2007 and 2015 for the Rafale jets but on procedure and systems. The audit compares the government decision to procure 36 aircrafts using inflation and deciding on the price of the UPA’s procurement of 18 flyaway aircraft in 2007 along with the global tender.
An audit on offset clauses is still being done and has been shared by the Defence Ministry and will be presented after the new government is formed.
Sources say an unofficial press release of CAG will be shared tomorrow to explain the report, instead of a finance ministry press release on the audit.
The CAG or Comptroller and Auditor General is Rajiv Mehrishi, who was Finance Secretary when the Rafale deal was inked.
This has provoked Congress allegations of conflict of interest. Yesterday, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal alleged that Mr Mehrishi would try to save the BJP-led NDA government in a bid to save himself. How can the CAG investigate and act against himself, the Congress leader questioned.
The Congress has accused the CAG of being “complicit in the irregularities” in the Rafale deal and alleged that “the bungling was happening at the highest level with his direct or indirect complicity and consent”.
The Congress has been demanding that the pricing details of the fighter jets be made public – a demand that the government rejects citing a secrecy clause. The party’s chief Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that the centre scrapped a deal for 126 Rafale jets negotiated by the previous Congress-led government and entered an expensive new contract for 36 jets just to help Anil Ambani’s defence company bag an offset partnership with Rafale-maker Dassault.
Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal