The Audit Report of the CAG pertaining to the purchase of Rafale Aircraft runs from page 109 to 141. But if you thought that those 33 pages will bring to light the hidden aspects of the deal, explain matters relating to number, pricing, delivery etc., and comment on the correctness and propriety of the transaction, you will be disappointed.
Actually, the most important page of the Report is the Preface. I shall quote from the Preface:
“The Ministry of Defence vide its letter dated 15 January 2019 had requested this Office to redact commercial details of MMRCA in the Audit Report citing reference to Article 10 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement. ……This Office had taken up the issue with MoD vide letter dated 05 February 2019, wherein Ministry was intimated about CAG’s reluctance/refusal to carry out the redaction of price information, on account of difficulties in comprehension and lack of precedence of redaction of commercial details in the Audit Reports. However, Ministry has strongly reiterated their stand for redaction of commercial details in MMRCA case on the grounds of security concerns and the said Agreement vide their letter dated 06 February 2019. Accordingly, commercial details in the Audit findings of the MMRCA contract have been redacted.”
If you will now read pages 126 to 141, I dare say that the pages will make no sense to a person of average intelligence. Table 3 on page 131 and Table 4 on page 133 are just gibberish and make no sense whatsoever.
The discussion on ‘Comparative analysis of 2007 and 2015 price Bids’ has been summarized in a Table on page 137. It is significant that the CAG has rejected the claim of the government that the NDA-deal for 36 aircraft was cheaper by 9 per cent, not to speak of the boast of the government that it was cheaper by 20 per cent.
The CAG’s Report is significant not for what it has said (actually it has said little m) but for what it has not said. The Report does not throw light on the following questions which are the most relevant in the controversial deal:
1. What was the justification to reduce the number of aircraft from 126 to 36?
2. What is the monetary gain to Dassault due to amortization of the India Specific Enhancement costs over 36 aircraft rather than 126 aircraft?
3. What is the monetary gain to Dassault and monetary risk to India because of the waiver of Sovereign guarantee, bank guarantee and escrow account?
4. What is the hidden purpose of waiving the mandatory anti-corruption clauses: no undue influence, no agency, access to books of account and integrity pact?
5. When will the first and the last of the 36 aircraft be delivered and what is the probability of Dassault adhering to the delivery schedule? When will the delivered aircraft become a fighter aircraft and when will the process be started on the first aircraft and completed on the last aircraft?
6. Above all, what is the impact of fewer aircraft (36 against 126, and no orders placed yet for the remaining 90) on the capability and operational preparedness of the Air Force?
I deeply regret to say that the CAG has meekly submitted to the unprecedented demand of the government and presented a Report that contains no useful information or analysis or conclusions. The CAG has failed the people of the country.
I think I was not wrong when I said yesterday that the Report may not be worth the paper on which it is printed.