Party alleges CAG complicit in deal irregularity, cites conflict of interest
A day before the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) is expected to submit to the President a much-awaited report on its audit of big-ticket military procurements in the last few years, including the controversial Rafale deal, the Congress on Sunday accused CAG Rajiv Mehrishi of conflict of interest.
Addressing a Press conference, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal questioned how Mehrishi could “investigate himself” since he had been the Union Finance (Economic Affairs) Secretary when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Rafale deal in April 2015.
Accusing Mehrishi of being “complicit” in the “irregularities” in the deal, Sibal said there was no reason or occasion for you to audit the 36 Rafale aircraft deal.
“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 deal. But how can he initiate a probe against himself,” Sibal said.
Demanding that Mehrishi must recuse himself from the CAG report, Sibal alleged, “This is the corrupt deal and fair investigation should be done, but how can
CAG investigate himself when he was the Finance Secretary. There is a clear conflict of interest.”
The CAG report on the The President has to forward the CAG report to the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha and the Government. The report could be tabled in Parliament before Wednesday, the last day of the Budget Session and the last day of sitting of Parliament before the Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress leader alleged that CAG is going to completely save the Government in its report.
“The whole deal was materialised in the supervision of Rajiv Mehrishi who was the then Finance Secretary. When the negotiations started the Ministry of Finance were part of it,” the Congress leader said.
The Congress has sent a memorandum to CAG Mehrishi on the Rafale deal and reminded him about the ‘cardinal principle of law’.
The memorandum said, “The cardinal principle of law is that “no one can be a judge in his own cause.” Constitutional scheme and the essential Rule of Law envisage that no individual can audit or examine or sit in judgement over one’s own actions.
“It has been now revealed to us that the audit of the 36 Rafale aircraft deal by you as CAG is one such glaring case. Under the Defence Procurement Procedure as also the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, Ministry of Finance and the then Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) are the appropriate authorities for financial sanction and approval of the defence deals.”
The memorandum states, “You were Finance Secretary from October 29, 2014 to August 30, 2015. This means that you were the Finance Secretary at the time of unilateral announcement of purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore by the Prime Minister.”
“Representatives of the Finance Ministry ie, Members of the Cost Accounts Service and Financial Advisers were part of the Indian negotiating team. Hence, you were also involved in the negotiations of the Rafale deal,” the Congress says.
“We urge upon you to recuse yourself and publicly accept the gross impropriety committed by you in initiating the audit of 36 Rafale aircraft deal,” it said.
Congress has been accusing the Modi Government of corruption in the deal, alleging that the price of the aircraft was raised and the offset deal was taken from State-owned aircraft maker HAL and given to businessman Anil Ambani’s newly formed Reliance Defence, which had no experience.
The Government and Anil Ambani have repeatedly refuted all allegations of irregularities and corruption.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi stepped up his attack on the Narendra Modi Government over Rafale deal on Friday following a news report claiming that the Defence Ministry objected to “parallel parleys” by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with the French authorities.
A report published by The Hindu claimed that “the French side took advantage of parallel parleys by the PMO that weakened Indian team’s position” in negotiating the Rafale deal with France.