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Budget Session: CAG to submit report on Rafale deal to parliament


New Delhi, Feb 11: The Centre may table a Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report on the Rafale deal during the upcoming Budget Session of Parliament this week.

When it will be tabled in Parliament is for the government to decide, officials said, pointing out that while it has to be presented to the legislature, no time frame has been specified in the Constitution.

Budget Session: CAG to submit report on Rafale deal to parliament

The significance of the report lies in the fact that the CAG has reportedly conducted a thorough review of the Rafale deal- looking into various aspects of the procurement process including pricing, the request for proposals received from all vendors and comparative pricing of other fighter jets - vis-a-vis the Rafale - available globally.

CAG Rajiv Mehrishi should recuse himself from Rafale deal audit: Congress

Earlier, a media report had claimed that only three copies of the final report will mention the price of each aircraft and these will most likely be given only to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

An official was quoted saying that the redacted copies will be submitted in the Parliament which means that if the Public Accounts Committee wants to know the price at which the aircraft deal was made then, they will have to ask the MoD to provide them with the relevant copy.

Meanwhile, the Congress on Sunday had requested Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Rajiv Mehrishi to rescue 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.

"Finance Ministry plays an important role in these negotiations...Now it is clear that the Rafale deal happened under Rajiv Mehrishi. Now he is CAG. We met him twice on September 19 and October 4, 2018. We told him about the scam. We told him that the deal should be probed because it is corrupt. But how can he initiate a probe against himself," said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal.

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.

PTI reported that Mehrishi is likely to present the report on the Rafale deal in parliament. He 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.

The Congress said it had, in its submissions to the CAG, listed the acts of omission and commission as well as corruption in the Rafale deal.

Recently, a report by The Hindu had claimed that the MoD raised strong objections to "parallel negotiations" conducted by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) with the French side.

The report had cited a Defence Ministry note dated November 24, 2015, that was reportedly brought to the attention of then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and stated that parallel discussions by the PMO had "weakened the negotiating position of MoD and Indian Negotiating Team."

However, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman dismissed the report as "flogging a dead horse" and accused the opposition of playing into the hands of multinational companies and vested interests.

Last year, the Supreme Court had dismissed all the petitions seeking a court-monitored investigation into the Rafale deal. The apex court said that it did not find any material to show commercial favouritism.

The Congress has been alleging that the deal was overpriced, violated procedures, and was intended to benefit the Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Defence as the "offsets partner".

Meanwhile, the BJP has rejected all the charges, insisting that the deal signed by the NDA government was honest and cost less than what was decided during the UPA dispensation.

The multi-billion dollar deal was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 when Francois Hollande was the President of France. The Rafale fights jets are scheduled to be delivered from September 2019.

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