NEW DELHI-- Then Joint Secretary & Acquisition Manager (Air) in the Ministry of Defence had written a dissent note questioning the Rafale aircraft deal's benchmark price, a month before then defence minister Manohar Parrikar signed the deal for purchasing 36 Rafale aircraft with his French counterpart in September 2016, The Indian Express reported.
The questions raised by the senior official, who was a part of the Contract Negotiations Committee (CNC), delayed the approval of the cabinet note needed for approving the deal and its signing. Both things could be done only after another senior MoD official, Director General (Acquisition), in the Defence Ministry "overruled" him.
This note is being currently looked into by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as part of its audit of the deal, The Indian Express reported.
Sources told the newspaper that the CAG will likely submit its report during the Winter Session of the Parliament where it may mention the objections made by the note and how it was overruled.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had previously stated that the issue of pricing of the Rafale aircraft was being looked into by the CAG. "Fortunately, there is pricing, and for security interest, that pricing can't be disclosed in detail. But I have come as close to this. If you take a weaponised aircraft as of 2007, add the same two things to it again and bring it to 2016 level, the 2016 level is 20% cheaper. Now the CAG will go into pricing. They may not eventually disclose it, but about being 9% and 20% cheaper or not, they are looking into it. Congress has submitted a memorandum. The truth will come out," he had said in an interview with ANI.
One of the main objections in the note was that the benchmark price for the French aircraft in the new 36-Rafale deal had been pegged higher than the benchmark price for the shelved 126-Rafale proposal, The Indian Express report said.
The price comparisons between the new and the old deals are a major source of controversy with opposition parties alleging that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi got a costlier deal than the one negotiated during the time of the previous government.
Read the entire report from The Indian Express here.