Congress accuses CAG of conflict of interest

Rajiv Mehrishi was part of Rafale negotiations, says party

February 10, 2019 10:53 pm | Updated 11:44 pm IST - New Delhi

 Congress leader Kapil Sibal addressing the media in New Delhi. File photo

Congress leader Kapil Sibal addressing the media in New Delhi. File photo

Ahead of the possible tabling of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the Rafale deal in Parliament, the Congress has questioned how CAG Rajiv Mehrishi could conduct the audit when he himself had been part of the Rafale negotiations.

In a strongly worded letter to Mr. Mehrishi, Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and Ghulam Nabi Azad pointed out that Mr. Mehrishi was the Finance Secretary when the Rafale deal was signed. “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 [Public Accounts Committee] and 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 letter read.

In the letter, the Congress further accused Mr. Mehrishi of trying to save the government.

‘Bid to save govt.’

“We understand that at the fag end of this government’s tenure, you, as CAG, are attempting to help the government by giving it a clean chit certificate through a report likely to be tabled in Parliament.”

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal told reporters that Mr. Mehrishi was likely to present the report on the Rafale deal in Parliament on Monday.

Mr. Mehrishi was Finance Secretary from October 24, 2014 to August 30, 2015, and in between Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Paris on April 10, 2015 and announced the signing of the Rafale deal.

“Mr. Mehrishi was the Finance Secretary on June 24, 2015, when the contract for the 126 aircraft was cancelled. He still held the post when the negotiations were going on. In fact, the Finance Ministry plays an important role in these negotiations... Now it is clear that the Rafale deal happened under Rajiv Mehrishi,” Mr. Sibal said.

He also pointed out that a government affidavit, which formed the basis of a Supreme Court judgment on a PIL petition on the Rafale deal, said the CAG report on the deal had already been tabled in Parliament. The report did not exist till then but the affidavit, Mr. Sibal said, pointed out that “the government possibly has advance knowledge of the goings-on in the CAG and the contents of the CAG report”.

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