New Delhi: The much-awaited report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in the 2016 inter-government agreement between India and France for the sale of 36 Rafale fighter jets is ready and could be sent to Parliament “in the next two-three days”.
Sources in the CAG told ThePrint that the requisite exit conference — a discussion between the parties involved and the CAG before the auditor finalises the report — with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had already been carried out.
The report, the sources said, was not just about Rafale, but also dealt with some other defence-related acquisitions.
There are indications that the report won’t be tabled till the last day of the ongoing budget session, either 12 or 13 February.
“All procedures have been carried out and the report is likely to be sent to Parliament in the next two-three days,” said a source. “Once it is submitted to Parliament, it has to be tabled and then sent to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for scrutiny,” the source added.
However, since the tenure of the current House will end in the next three months, the PAC, currently headed by Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge, may not have adequate time to study the report.
“The members of PAC, many of whom are sure to be re-nominated for the coming elections, especially those of the ruling alliance, may not be very keen to participate in the proceedings of the PAC,” said a senior Parliament functionary.
Why the CAG report matters
The CAG report has been keenly awaited since the Congress, led by party president Rahul Gandhi, has been trying to corner the government on the issue of alleged irregularities in the multi-billion dollar deal.
If the report flags any procedural or pricing irregularities, it will give a big boost to the opposition campaign against the Narendra Modi government ahead of the Lok Sabha election.
In case the report absolves the government, the Congress will lose a key campaign plank.
The grammar row
The CAG report made headlines in December last year after alleged “grammatical errors” in a note submitted by the Narendra Modi government gave the Supreme Court, which was hearing pleas seeking a probe into the deal, the impression that the document had been examined by the PAC.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, had said that the report had been examined by the PAC, and “only a redacted portion of the report was placed before the Parliament, and is in public domain”.
The government has already moved an application in the apex court to seek factual corrections in the judgment. However, the application is yet to be heard.