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Another Congress Scam uncovered in P-8i aircraft deal for Indian Navy - CAG

The P8I is the Indian Navy's most modern maritime reconnaissance plane. It was acquired by the Indian government after the deal with Boeing was done in 2009. Now, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the CAG has held the government responsible for "lack of due diligence/lack of proper internal checks... resulted in Boeing, USA being judged as L-1 incorrectly," saying unequivocally, the American firm's P-8I aircraft was favoured over the Spanish in the purchase of the Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft. Both planes met the requirements and went through trials before financial issues came up.

This deal was done in January 2009 when the UPA government of Dr Manmohan Singh was in power. Negotiations began in 2007 and the planes were delivered between May 2013 and October 2015. Simply put, the CAG says the UPA government wrongly favoured the Boeing over the Spanish plane. Boeing's planes cost Rs 8,700 crore; the Spanish planes were cheaper.

But there is more. In the report, the CAG says that the "monitoring mechanism," to oversee see the deal did not do its job. They were - A. the Apex Steering Committee, B. the Project Review, and Monitoring Team.

The Apex Steering Committee was to have met once in six months. Fact is that they met only three times: in 2011, 201`3 and 2016 during the execution of the contract. The Committee did not do much about the offset contract, the purchase of ammunition and sensors. Despite the navy's saying that the Committee members were regularly apprised and the contract had no time or cost overruns, the CAG said "lack of monitoring by the Apex Steering Committee as per the prescribed periodicity was in violation of DPP-2006 and the assurance extended to the Cabinet Committee on Security in this regard.

"Consequently, the operation of offset obligation clause, timely procurement of ammunition and receipt of fully functional sensors were also not addressed by the Committee as envisaged." The CAG has also spoken about the "capability limitations of the radars installed onboard;" the P8I could not achieve 'envisaged coverage area requirements." Which means, the radars did not have the range they should have had.

The P8I would carry bombs and torpedoes. The Defence Ministry had informed the Cabinet Committee on Security that the plane would carry bombs as part of its anti-submarine warfare operations. But the CAG says "the contract for procurement of bombs had not been concluded. Reasons for non-procurement of bombs were yet to be intimated by the Indian Navy. Thus, in the absence of bombs, the anti-submarine warfare capability of the aircraft could only be partially fulfilled."

Asked about the CAG report, Boeing's representative, Ashmita Sethi, said her firm would not like to comment.

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