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CAG Submits Rafale Report to Govt But Price of Jets Remains Masked, Say Sources

Public Accounts Committee Chairman Mallikarjun Kharge said on Monday that he suspected the CAG report would have the same content as was given by government to the Supreme Court.

Arunima | CNN-News18Arunima24

Updated:February 12, 2019, 10:08 AM IST
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New Delhi: The suspense over the Comptroller and Auditor General’s findings in the Rafale deal may soon end. Officials working with the CAG's office have said that a copy of the report is with President and three copies are with the finance ministry.

"Just waiting for finance ministry to prepare the note which the President signs and then sends to the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Rajya Sabha Chairman for tabling of the report," the officer said.

CNN-News18 has learnt that the CAG has prepared the report titled air acquisitions in two volumes. Volume one deals with 10 air acquisitions while volume two deals with the Rafale deal. The two volumes have been printed together.

Sources have also confirmed CNN-News18’s January 30 report that price of the 36 Rafale jets will be masked (redacted) in the CAG report. "We have two reasons to mask the price. One national security and second the contract signed between government of France and India about non-disclosure of prices, "a CAG officer said on the condition of anonymity.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had alleged in the Lok Sabha that French president Macron during a meeting with him, Congress leader Anand Sharma and former PM Dr Manmohan Singh had said that France would have no problem if India wanted to make the price of the Rafale public.

The CAG findings will be tabled amid media reports that say that the Prime Minister’s Office conducted parallel negotiations with France on the Rafale deal had “undermined” the position of the Indian Negotiation Team, and that the government had waived crucial anti-corruption penalty clauses in the deal days before the inter-governmental agreement was signed.

Opposition parties have also questioned the impartiality of the current CAG, Rajiv Mehrshi, in the audit, as he was an official in the Finance Ministry during the Rafale negotiations. The Finance Ministry on Monday issued a statement that such an accusation was “totally a figment of imagination and stretch of facts”.

The finance ministry said Mehrishi, as Economic Affairs Secretary, never dealt with expenditure proposals from the Defence Ministry.

“It is pertinent to point out here that it is the Department of Expenditure of the Finance Ministry which deals with financial sanctions relating to all the Ministries of the Government of India and, in that capacity, any files relating to defence procurement would be dealt with by the Secretary, Department of Expenditure, and not by Shri Rajiv Mehrishi as Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs,” the Finance Ministry statement said.

Public Accounts Committee Chairman Mallikarjun Kharge said on Monday that he suspected the CAG report would have the same content as was given by government to the Supreme Court.

"The Rafale CAG report is predetermined. They have already told the SC falsely how the CAG and the PAC have found nothing wrong in the deal. It proves what the CAG is going to say. The Congress has already expressed its no confidence in such a report," Kharge said.

A CAG official, when asked to comment on Kharge's comment, said, "He will be proved wrong."

The Lok Sabha's revised list of business for Tuesday has no mention of the CAG report but officials say a last-minute amendment to the list of business cannot be ruled out. Other than air acquisitions, two other CAG reports on direct taxes and Union finance ministry accounts are also to be tabled in this session.

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| Edited by: Debdeep Mukherjee
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