The Comptroller and Auditor General of India will audit the government’s procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France for $8.7 billion, as it does all other deals, but only after the “ deal is fully executed and the payments are completed”, according to a senior CAG official who asked not to be identified.
After several media reports surfaced earlier this week about an ongoing CAG audit of the deal, defence ministry officials said they were not aware of such a development and added that deals usually come up for an audit after a contract is fully executed.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s G2G (government to government) deal to acquire the Rafale aircraft has become controversial with the Congress claiming it is more expensive than a deal struck during the UPA regime.
The government’s response is that the two deals aren’t comparable, and that the older one had terms which would have meant it wouldn’t have gone through. The Indian Rafales are equipped with latest weapons and tailored for Indian needs.
Meanwhile, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in response to a question on the $8.7 billion deal, told reporters earlier this week: “I am assuring you in the company of all the senior officials that yes there is no scandal in Rafale. We are very clear on that part.” She was highlighting the defence ministry’s achievements in the first four years of the NDA government at a press conference.
A second CAG official said that any major spending of the government automatically comes under the auditor’s radar and the Rafale will not be an exception.
“It is routine for us. But as it is a major spending, we might do it on a priority, but only after the payments are made and the deal is executed,” the official added on condition of anonymity.
CAG audits most government deals and the fact that a deal will be audited doesn’t necessarily mean there are problems with it.
In her press conference, the defence minister accused the Opposition of launching “motivated attacks” against the government and making “false price comparisons.”
She said comparing a price for Rafales that was never paid (by the previous UPA regime) with what had been arrived at by the NDA government was a “non-starter.” The opposition party has asked the government to reveal the purchase price of each aircraft but the Centre has said details cannot be disclosed as there is a clause on “classified information” in the inter-governmental agreement.