August 11, 2018

After CAG fire, defence ministry looks into UPA’s naval aircraft deal

After the central auditor tore into a $ 2.2-billion deal signed by the UPA to procure P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft by hinting at favoritism, the defence ministry is dusting through the files of the contract signed in 2009 as part of an internal inquiry into the matter.

The matter also took political colour with a Twitter storm by senior government ministers who charged in a series of similar posts that the deal put national security at risk and that the UPA bought ‘defective spy planes’.

The naval aircraft deal came under fire after the CAG said in a report that Boeing was favoured as the government ‘enhanced’ a financial bid by the only competitor EADS CASA, Spain during the selection process. The auditor alleged that if the proper price determination model was followed, the European offering of the A 319 plane would have turned out cheaper.

The CAG has alleged that the American platform does not fully meet the requirements of the Indian Navy due to capability limitations of radars installed onboard and that critical ammunition for anti-submarine warfare has not been procured.

Sources said that contract files are being reviewed by the ministry after the audit report and some discrepancies have come to sight at the preliminary stage. If the government determines that the matter needs to be probed further, investigative agencies could also be brought into the picture at a later stage.

While the UPA did sign the `2.2 billion deal in 2009 to meet urgent requirements of the Navy, the NDA government too ordered at least four additional planes given the positive feedback from the forces. This deal, valued at $1 billion was inked in 2016 and the aircraft are expected to join the Navy soon.

Senior ministers including Piyush Goyal, Rajyavardhan Rathore and Uma Bharti took to twitter on Thursday to attack the UPA over the deal. The Twitter storm comes after a sustained attack on the government by the opposition as well as former BJP leaders Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha over the Rafale fighter jet controversy.


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