Congress accuses CAG Rajiv Mehrishi of "conflict of interest" in audit of Rafale deal

The Congress on Sunday accused Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Rajiv Mehrishi of "conflict of interest" in conducting an audit of the Rafale fighter jets deal given the fact that he was serving as Finance Secretary during a period when key decisions on the controversial purchase of the 36 aircraft were taken.
In a memorandum submitted to the CAG, the party pointed out that Mr. Mehrishi had served as Finance Secretary, Ministry of Finance between Octobr 29, 2014 and August 30, 2015.
It said this meant that at the time of the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Paris in April, 2015 and the cancellation of the MMRCA deal negotiated by the previous Congress-led UPA government in June, 2015, he was in that position.
"Consequently, you were directly involved in the Rafale deal on both these occasions as Finance Secretary. Not only this, the price negotiations of the 36 Rafale aircraft deal commenced in May, 2015. Representatives of the Finance Ministry, i.e. Member of the Cost Accounts Service and Financial Advisers were part of the Indian negotiation team.
"Hence, you were also involved in the negotiations of Rafale deal. In fact, the irregularities, bungling and corruption was happening at the highest level with your direct or indirect complicity and consent. This reflects your direct collaboration in the entire matter. That being so, there is no reason or occasion for you to audit the 36 Rafale aircraft deal as you can neither be a judge in your own cause nor can sit in audit over your own actions to which you were a party," the memorandum said.
The Congress said the manner in which the deal to buy 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA) was suddenly shelved as also the "blatant irregularities, shoddy cover up, the self-defeating assertions, the deliberate lies and rampant charges of corruption in the off-the-shelf purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircrafts by Modi Government has shocked and scandalized the entire country."
"The allegations and facts relating to loss to the public exchequer stand exposed as the ruling government refuses to state the truth or place the evidence in public domain. Modi Government remains ‘opaque’, ‘intransient’, ‘obscure’, ‘obstinate’ to cover up the layers of corruption in the Rafale scam," it said.
The memorandum said that, on behalf the Congress, two delegations had met the CAG and submitted detailed memorandum on September 19, 2018 and October 4, 2018 about the alleged corruption in the Rafale deal. It noted that the CAG had informed the delegation that the CAG was undertaking audit of the deal.
"The cardinal principle of law is that 'no one can be a judge in his own cause'. Constitutional scheme and the essential Rule of Law envisage that no individual can audit or examine or sit in judgement over one’s own actions. It has been now revealed to us that the audit of the 36 Rafale aircraft deal by you as CAG is one such glaring case. Under the Defence Procurement Procedure as also the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, Ministry of Finance and the then Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) are the appropriate authorities for financial sanction and approval of the defence deals," it said.
"We are deeply shocked by the fact that despite knowing these facts, you chose to neither recuse yourself as CAG from auditing the 36 Rafale  aircraft deal nor you chose to inform either the Government or even the Congress delegation when it met you twice to discuss the irregularities, bungling and corruption in the Rafale deal. Needless to add that this conduct points towards a direct conflict of interest, making you a judge in your own cause and rendering you ineligible to conduct any audit on the Rafale deal as CAG," it said.
The memorandum said the role of the CAG became even more suspect when the Supreme Court delivered its judgement on a public interest litigation (PIL) on Rafale deal on December 15, 2018.
"Shockingly, the Supreme Court founded its judgement to reject the PIL based on a CAG report, as recorded in Para 25 of the judgement.
"However, as pointed out by the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament, Shri MallikarjunKharge, no CAG report even existed much less was presented either to the PAC or to the Parliament. This itself brought into question the information supplied to the Supreme Court by the Government on CAG report as also a possible advance knowledge that the government had of the on-goings in the CAG and the contents of the CAG report that were under preparation. 
"Your silence in the entire matter despite the name of the CAG being dragged to mislead the Supreme Court was even more intriguing as any reasonable person or institution would have come forward to call out the bluff and falsehood being perpetrated by the ruling Modi government.
"These facts clearly bring out a direct conflict of interest on your part as CAG precluding you from auditing your own actions as Finance Secretary and making you a judge in your own cause, which is neither possible nor permissible. We understand that the fag end of this government’s tenure, you as CAG is attempting to help the government by giving it a clean chit certificate through a report likely to be tabled in Parliament.
"We urge upon you that you are disentitled in law from conducting a forensic audit of the Rafale deal as the CAG in the light of incontrovertible and overwhelming facts and evidence that exist. It is an act of gross impropriety for you to deal with the audit of the 36 Rafale aircraft deal on account of patent conflict of interest writ large. You are constitutionally, legally and morally disentitled to either conduct an audit or to present a report before the PAC and the Parliament.
"We urge upon you to recuse yourself and publicly accept the gross impropriety committed by you in initiating the audit of the 36 Rafale aircraft deal," the release added.

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