New Delhi: In yet another sensational report ahead of poll on Modi Government’s Rafale deal which could manifold Modi’s worries, the central government has waived off critical provisions for anti-corruption penalties as well as overruled financial advisers’ recommendations for making payments through an escrow account just days before it signed the inter-governmental agreement with France to acquire 36 Rafale jets, the English daily, “ The Hindu” reported today.
The newspaper in it’s report accused the Modi led government that the high-level political intervention days before the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale deal was signed meant that standard Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) clauses on “Penalty for use of Undue Influence, Agents/Agency Commission, and Access to Company accounts” of Dassault Aviation and MBDA France were dropped by the Indian government in the supply protocols.
Under the terms of the IGA signed between India and France in Delhi on September 23, 2016, Dassault is the supplier of the Rafale aircraft package while MBDA France is the supplier of the weapons package to the Indian Air Force, the report stated.
The Hindu further stated that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by the then Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, met in September 2016, and “ratified and approved” eight changes in the IGA, supply protocols, offset contracts and offset schedules. This was done after the IGA and associated documents had been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Modi on August 24, 2016.
Three members of the negotiating team - M.P. Singh, Adviser (Cost), A.R. Sule, Financial Manager (Air), and Rajeev Verma, Joint Secretary and Acquisitions Manager (Air) – had strongly objected to dropping the clauses, but were overruled, the report further stated.
Their dissent note said that the deal involved direct dealing with commercial suppliers – Dassault and MBDA France - under cover of an IGA and dropping the clauses was not prudent, the Hindu reported.
“Notwithstanding the fact that the procurement is on Government-to-Government basis, the IGA involves ‘Transfer of Rights and Obligations’ relating to supplies of equipment and related industrial services by French Government to the French Industrial Suppliers, and the payment is also being made to the French Industrial Suppliers and not to the French Government; therefore, it is not advisable to sacrifice the basic requirement of financial prudence,” they had stated in a note.
This assumes particular importance as the government also chose to do away with a sovereign or bank guarantee from France and settled for a letter of comfort, which is not legally binding, from the French Prime Minister.
An escrow account would have been an important financial safeguard as it would have allowed the Indian government to release money to the French government, which would then make timely payments to the two private firms.
It is highly significant that these clauses were dropped by the Indian government from the supply protocols. While the IGA was the overarching agreement between the governments of India and France, the supply protocols were to be executed by Dassault and MBDA, the two private companies.
Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the “Rafale deal is unravelling faster than the government thought” after the latest Hindu report came out.
“No sovereign guarantee, no bank guarantee, no escrow account, yet a huge amount was paid as advance. No penalty clause for undue influence, no clause against agency commission, no clause for access to suppliers' accounts and Dassault goes laughing all the way to the bank,” he tweeted.