Union minister Arun Jaitley today rubbished Congress accusations of the Comptroller and Auditor General being "complicit in the irregularities" of the Rafale deal, saying Rajeev Mehrishi was in no way associated with the decision-making process on the fighter jets. The Congress allegations on the national auditor became sharper after an audit report presented in parliament today held that the Rafale deal of the Narendra Modi government was 2.8 per cent cheaper than the one negotiated by the UPA government.
The Congress and other opposition parties alleged Mr Mehrishi's complicity, claiming he was the finance secretary when the new Rafale deal was being negotiated in 2016.
Mr Jaitley said it is the Secretary of Expenditure, not the Secretary of Finance who deals with the Defence ministry. "Present CAG was the Secretary of Economic Affairs, had nothing to with defence purchases. No file, or any decision relating to any defence purchase ever went to him," he added.
In a series of tweets earlier today, Mr Jaitley said, "The procedure argument that there was no Defence Acquisition Council, no CCS, no Contract Negotiation Committee was a blatant lie."
I say this without fear of contradiction that no file or paper relating to the Rafale transaction ever reached him nor was he in any way, directly or indirectly, associated with the decision making on defence purchases.— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) February 12, 2019
The dynast and his friends have in the past even attacked the Supreme Court when it rejected the writ petition on Rafale. The entire pricing argument was factually wrong.— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) February 12, 2019
Earlier today, senior CPM leader Sitaram Yechury also targetted the government over the CAG report. his tweet read:
CAG's entire report on this is suspect as the CAG himself was in the Finance Ministry when the Rafale deal was inked. He cannot audit actions he was a part of! #RafaleScam— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) February 13, 2019
On Sunday, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said "when the negotiations started, the Ministry of Finance were part of it and the deal had was materialised under the supervision of Rajiv Mehrishi.
The party also alleged there was a conflict of interest as the CAG was investigating a deal where he played a key part. "The bungling was happening at the highest level with his direct or indirect complicity and consent... CAG is going to completely save the government in its report," he added.
In the report submitted in Rajya Sabha today, the national auditor said compared to the 126-aircraft deal of the UPA, the new contract was 17.08 per cent cheaper in terms of the India Specific Enhancements.
The government wanted 13 specific changes to the Rafale jet to make it more suited to the country's defence parameters.
The auditor, however, did not include the key, controversial point of pricing, as the Defence Ministry maintains it cannot be revealed. The portions mentioning the cost have been redacted.