The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the 2015 Rafale jet deal tabled in the Parliament on Wednesday, said the Rafale deal sealed by the Modi government is 2.8 per cent cheaper than the one negotiated by the previous UPA government.
The CAG report tabled before Rajya Sabha said India has managed to save 17.08 per cent money for the India Specific Enhancements in the 36 Rafale contract, compared to the 126 aircraft deal.
It further said the delivery schedule of the first 18 Rafale aircraft is better than the one proposed in the 126 aircraft deal, by five months.
The auditor report noted that the Indian Air Force did not define the ASQRs (Air Staff Qualitative Requirements) properly. As a result of which none of the vendors could fully meet the ASQRs. ASQRs were changed repeatedly during the procurement process, the report said.
This created difficulties during technical and price evaluation and affected the integrity of competitive tendering which was one of the main reasons for the delay in the acquisition process, the report said.
Objectivity, equity and consistency of technical evaluation process was not evident in the Technical Evaluation Report.
Finding issues with the UPA-era deal, the audit further said a Defence Ministry team in March 2015 had recommended the scrapping of the 126 Rafale deal saying that the Dassault Aviation was not the lowest bidder and EADS (European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company) was not fully compliant with the tender requirements.
The Defence Ministry team had said that the proposal of Dassault Aviation Rafale should have been rejected in technical evaluation stage itself as it was non-compliant with RFP requirements.
The report comes as a major victory for the Narendra Modi-led BJP government which had been cornered by the Opposition parties in the matter.
Reacting to the report, Union Minister Arun Jaitley in a series of tweets slammed the opposition Congress saying “the lies of ‘Mahajhootbandhan’ stand exposed by the CAG Report”.
The lies of ‘Mahajhootbandhan’ stand exposed by the CAG Report.
— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) February 13, 2019
Comparing the 2007 and 2016 terms of the deal, Jaitley said the NDA contract involved lower price of jets, faster delivery, better maintenance and lower escalation.
He said “the CAG Report on Rafale reaffirms the dictum” adding that “the truth shall prevail”.
The Congress and other opposition parties have dismissed the report as biased as auditor Rajiv Mehrishi was the Finance Secretary when the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was inked in 2016.
The Congress had on Sunday demanded that CAG Rajiv Mehrishi recuse himself from the audit citing conflict of interest.
“Finance ministry plays an important role in negotiations. How will CAG investigate himself?” said Congress leader Kapil Sibal.
The Congress has been accusing massive irregularities in the deal, alleging that the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government when it was negotiating procurement of 126 Rafale jets.
It has also demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal.
The Supreme Court had earlier in December given a clean chit to the Centre on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
A three-Judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had dismissed all the petitions and said no Rafale probe was required.
India has signed an agreement with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, costing approximately Rs 58,000-crore (about USD 8 billion), in a fly-away condition for Indian Air Force equipment upgrade.