AGUSTAWESTLAND UNDER THE SCANNER IN STATES DEAL

In the midst of AgustaWestland chopper scam a latest news is making its way. While the investigation into alleged irregularities in the purchase of AgustaWestland helicopters for the Air Force picks steam, CAG audit reports from many States document irregularities in acquisition of helicopters for similar VVIP duties.

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is filed in the supreme court demanding to initialize a new comprehensive investigation in the purchases of helicopters by states and is slated for its next hearing on January 10.

Though Central Government has opposed  the investigation.

In the last decade or so the VVIPs of this country have loved to use the helicopters extensively. And in this period Central as well as State governments have started procuring expensive and advance multi-engine choppers for their top brass.

Most Expensive by Central Government

Among the procurements, the most expensive was the purchase of a dozen VVIP helicopters by the Air Force in 2010, in which the CBI has now arrested former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi and others.

AGUSTAWESTLAND

Various States also procured helicopters in recent years for the movement of Governors, Chief Ministers and other State-level dignitaries.

Jammu And Kashmir

2015 audit report by Comptroller and Auditor-General, pointed out the irregularities committed by Jammu And Kashmir Government in the procurement of AgustaWestland’s Helicopter A-109 E Power helicopter in 2004-05.

According to report the procurement was conducted in a non-transparent manner.

Punjab

Last year, a CAG report documented irregularities committed by the Punjab government in procuring a Bell helicopter without inviting tenders.

It was in violation of Punjab Financial Rules.

 Rajasthan

Purchase of an AgustaWestland helicopter by the Rajasthan government in 2005 too had faced allegations of lack of transparency. In 2008, an audit report of the CAG had said that the State government suffered unnecessary loss of Rs. 1.14 crore because the helicopter was lying unused for a long time.

Reason: the State didn’t have a trained pilot.

Jharkhand

In 2006, the purchase of a VVIP helicopter from AgustaWestland by the Jharkhand government too was carried out without an open tender.

The most damning evidence is in Chhattisgarh. The PIL plea has alleged a criminal conspiracy.

‘Sham Tender’

“In the Chhattisgarh deal, a sham tender was called for a particular model of Agusta helicopter in which three companies represented by the same person participated and forged documents were created. Further it is apparent from the record that money over and above the actual price of the helicopter was siphoned off in foreign exchange in certain accounts of banks outside the country,” according to the PIL plea filed by Swaraj Abhiyan led by advocate Prashant Bhushan and others.

AgustaWestland Links

Despite recommendation for open tender, invitations were sent to only suppliers of AgustaWestland helicopter, according to State government records submitted in the Supreme Court. A part of the payment was remitted to an account in Singapore, not owned by the company that supplied the helicopter. The Singapore account was controlled by an investment banker.

A limited CAG audit in 2010-11 had said that in the Chhattisgarh deal the State incurred an additional expenditure of Rs. 65 lakh.

The PIL plea has had three hearings, said Sudiep Shrivastav, one of the advocates appearing for the petitioner, who was also a key petitioner in the coal scam PIL petition.

The point to be noted from every chopper scam listed above is about the links of AgustaWestland in every state government. Every parameters made by the Governments were to ensure that AgustaWestland qualifies for the tender. In some cases there was no tender and only AgustaWestland was listed.

There is indeed some conspiracy behind these deals and a comprehensive investigation should be done in the above listed cases.

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