New Delhi: The much-awaited audit report on the controversy-hit Rafale fighter jet deal, tabled in the Parliament on Wednesday, said that the Modi government secured a 2.86 per cent cheaper price than what was negotiated by the UPA regime in 2007.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report comes as a relief for the Modi government, which has been facing fervent attacks by the Congress over the fighter jet deal. The Centre has repeatedly denied allegations by the opposition party in the Rafale issue.
Against the backdrop of the Congress and other opposition parties attacking the government accusing it of corruption in the Rafale deal, the relief from the CAG comes on top of the Supreme Court clean cheat given last year.
Without going into the controversial offset clause of the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal, the report examined the pricing but did not disclose the actual price of the 36 Rafale fighter jets contracted by the NDA government. The prices have been redacted in the audit report based on the insistence of the Defence Ministry citing the Indo-French agreement of 2008 and the provisions of Inter-Government Agreement (IGA).
Here are the highlights of the CAG report on the Rs 59,000-crore Rafale fighter jet deal:
• While the CAG report said that the current deal was 2.86 per cent cheaper, it flagged that removal of ‘sovereign guarantees’ only benefitted the French manufacturer, and not India. The CAG said that settling for a ‘Letter of Comfort’ rather than a sovereign guarantee by the French government was not in India’s favour.
• Highlighting its concerns, the CAG observed that in case of a breach of agreement, India would now have to first settle the matter through arbitration directly with the French vendors.
• The report also pointed out that certain India-specific enhancements in the new deal were “not required” and the Ministry of Defence overruled the Indian Air Force’s proposal to reduce the number of these enhancements.
• While CAG was silent on offset partners, a key point on which Congress has been attacking Modi alleging corruption in Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group getting a key contract, the government auditor also redacted the absolute price details and only referred to percentage change from what were negotiated by the Congress-led UPA in 2007 for 126 jets to those in the final deal clinched by the BJP-led NDA in 2016 for 36 aircraft.
• In its 157-page report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) observed there was no change in the price of ‘flyaway aircraft package’.
• Of total 11 counts on which the CAG compared the prices, there was no change in the price under total four heads, while prices actually rose on four other counts — the training of pilots and technicians (2.68 per cent), engineering support package (6.54 per cent), performance-based logistics (6.54 per cent) and tools, testers and ground equipment (0.15 per cent).
• On three parameters, the price came down in the NDA deal — India-specific enhancements (down by 17.08 per cent), weapons package (by 1.05 per cent) and services, products-operational support equipment and technical assistance, documentation, and programme managements (by 4.77 per cent).
• The CAG said the IAF wanted to reduce six India-specific enhancements in the Rafale jet under the new deal in view of the “huge cost and reduced number of aircraft”, but the Defence Ministry overruled it. It also pointed out that there were four India specific enhancements in the new deal that were “not required”.
• The audit report also said the delivery time of Rafale jets under the NDA deal was only a month less than what was negotiated by the UPA.
Rahul’s Lies Exposed, he Should Apologise, Says BJP
After the CAG in its report said the deal was 2.86 per cent cheaper than what the UPA government had negotiated in 2007, the BJP said that Rahul Gandhi’s “lies” on the Rafale aircraft deal have been “exposed” and demanded an apology from him.
In light of the SC order and the CAG report, Gandhi should withdraw his allegations and tender an apology, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad demanded.
He accused the previous UPA government of delaying the finalisation of the aircraft’s purchase and claimed the delay happened because “there would be no deal without a deal” under the Congress-led dispensation.
Taking a dig at Rahul, he said it is a matter of serious discussion how much the Congress president understands the CAG report, pointing out that the Congress chief on Tuesday used an email “about helicopters” to say that it referred to Rafale jets.
“It is very worrisome that he cannot differentiate between helicopters and Rafale fighter jets,” he said.
Noting that Rahul had cited Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, a public sector unit, being not part of the Rafale manufacturing to attack the Modi government, the BJP leader said the CAG has observed that HAL would take 2.7 times the man hours that Dassault would for preparing a jet.
‘Chowkidar Auditor General’ Report on Rafale an ‘Eyewash’: Congress
The Congress, however, rejected the CAG audit, saying it was an “eyewash” and “not even worth the paper it was written on” as it did not take into account the “dissent note” of deal negotiators. The party dubbed the CAG as ‘Chowkidar Auditor General’ and was joined by several other opposition parties in questioning the audit report.
At a press conference, Rahul alleged that even the “manufactured figure” of 2.86 per cent decline in price shows that Prime Minister Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, had lied to Parliament by stating that the price of the “new deal” was 9-20 per cent cheaper than the UPA-era offer.
Rahul said the government’s argument on price and faster delivery of Rafale fighter jets has been demolished and alleged that the only reason for the new deal is to give Rs 30,000 crore to industrialist Anil Ambani.