The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, headed by veteran Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, has decided to examine the Rafale deal. The panel has included the entire report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the Capital Acquisition in Indian Air Force, which also dealt with the purchase of Rafale aircrafts, in the additional subjects selected for examination between August 2021 and September 2022.
In the report, tabled in both the Houses of Parliament in February 2019, the CAG presented the results of a performance audit of 11 contracts of capital acquisition signed by the defence forces between 2012-13 and 2017-18. The government auditor also reviewed the procurement process of 36 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA) from Dassault Aviation through a bilateral agreement with the Government of France.
Centre on audit
The Centre had welcomed the audit and claimed that the entire package price of the 36 Rafale procurement is 2.86 per cent lower than the Audit Aligned price, compared to the MMRCA process.
The Centre told Parliament that the CAG report has also brought out that Non Firm and Fixed (F&F) bid as done in the 36 Rafale Inter Governmental Agreement may be more advantageous than the Firm & Fixed offer. A member in the panel told BusinessLine that the PAC’s examination of the CAG report is mandatory. “We will see what the Centre has to say about the findings of the report,” said a member. Another member, from the Opposition camp, said the PAC can ask for the details from the CAG.
“One of the main subject in this report is the purchase of Rafale jets. There are a lot of missing links. We will seek for more details from the Ministry, the Air Force and the CAG about the purchase when the issue comes up for discussion,” said the senior member.
Cong demand for probe
The Congress has been maintaining that the deal has to be probed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee. The party had said that the CAG report has opened a can of worms.
“The offset obligations should have started on 23-9-2019 and the first annual commitment should have been completed by 23-9–2020, that is yesterday. Will the government say if that obligation was fulfilled? Is the CAG report the opening of a can of worms?,” Congress leader and former Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, had said in September 2020.
He added that the CAG has found that the vendors of the Rafale aircraft have not confirmed the transfer of technology under the offset contract.
Apart from the Rafale issue, the PAC will also look into CAG reports on ‘accounting of assets in Indian Railways’; ‘non-utilisation of solar thermal power plant’; ‘development of Railway land for commercial use by Rail Land Development Authority’; ‘quality management in ordnance factories dealing with the ammunition and explosives’; ‘training of Officers in Indian Navy’; ‘operational readiness of IAF’; ‘working of inland container depots (ICDs) and container freight stations (CFSs)’; ‘monitoring mechanism for appeal cases in CBIC’; ‘monitoring mechanism for recovery of arrears in CBIC’; ‘effectiveness of tax administration and internal controls (service tax and Central Excise)’; and ‘concessions to passengers in Railways’.