Accusing Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) Rajiv Mehrishi of conflict of interest, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Sunday questioned how could Mehrishi “investigate himself,” since he had been the Union Finance (Economic Affairs) Secretary when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Rafale deal in April 2015.
“The same CAG was involved as finance secretary in harming the national security when the deal was struck in 2015. The same CAG would present the report,” noted the former union minister. After serving as finance secretary, Mehrishi was appointed as the Union Home Secretary in August 2015, before he took charge as C&AG in September last year.
“It is a major issue of conflict of interest,” said Sibal, demanding that Mehrishi recuses himself from presenting the CAG report into the Rafale deal.
“He must recuse himself from presenting this report. If it is tabled in the Parliament, it will be another big scam,” warned Sibal, adding that the report might be tabled in Parliament tomorrow itself.
A memorandum from Congress to Mehrishi states, “You were finance secretary from Oct 29, 2014 to Aug 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 Advisors 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,” the memorandum goes on to state.
The C&AG report to probe allegations of financial irregularities in the Modi government's $8.7 billion, 36-fighter jet deal is expected to be submitted to President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday.
President Kovind has to forward it to the Lok Sabha, 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 the Parliament before the Lok Sabha elections.
Congress has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being directly involved in the alleged financial irregularities committed in the purchase of 36 fighter jets from France's Dassault Aviation in a fly-away condition.
PM Modi had announced the completion of the deal during his visit to France in April 2015, a year before the formal agreement was signed. But the deal negotiated by Modi is different from the one negotiated by the UPA government, which involved 18 Rafale jets bought in a flyaway condition and the remaining 126 would have been manufactured at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Congress Party says that the BJP-led government is paying Rs 1,670 crore for each jet, compared to Rs 526 crore, the price negotiated by the former UPA government.
Under Modi's $8.7 billion deal, 36 jets are to be bought from the French company in a ready-to-fly condition, and the remaining are to be manufactured in the country. The offset clause for the deal has been awarded to Reliance Defence, backed by Anil Ambani, which has triggered allegations of crony capitalism by opposition parties.