Government terms report on official’s ‘objection’ in Rafale deal confusing

New Delhi: The government on Thursday said the media report which talked about a senior official putting his objections to the benchmark pricing of 36 Rafale fighter jets “seeks to create confusion through distorted and selective presentation of facts” and maintained that the report suffered from “several factual errors that impact its entire tone and tenor”.

Referring to the report carried by a newspaper which said that a Joint Secretary and Acquisition Manager (Air) had raised questions about the benchmark pricing of the jets and put his objections on record, official sources said in making “a lot of certain supposed observations attributed to an individual officer”, the report “betrays ignorance of the collegiate process involving due deliberations and diligence at various levels, through which all major government decisions are typically taken”.

The sources said the process is designed to ensure utmost integrity and transparency while allowing for “opinions to be freely expressed, recorded, discussed and, if necessary, modified”.

The government has stated earlier that it has followed all provisions laid down in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) and other relevant guidelines while finalising the deal, and noted that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) accepted the necessity for the acquisition of Rafale aircraft and mandated the Contract Negotiating Committee (CNC).

Following the stipulated process, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) accorded its approval to the acquisition on August 24, 2016, and not in September 2016, as has been erroneously claimed in the media report.

The said officer had signed the note considered and approved by the CCS on August 24, 2016. Thereafter, he proceeded in September 2016 for a one-week training programme – and not on leave – for which he had applied in July 2016, the sources said.

They said the media report has sought to raise questions about the price of the 36 Rafale aircraft, and noted that not only the price but also other factors including maintenance, training, armament and equipment, etc. were included in the contract for the 36 jets which represented “better terms as compared to the negotiations conducted by the previous government”.

Parliament has already been informed on July 18, 2018 that the audit of capital acquisition system, including the Rafale aircraft, is being conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, they said.