Rafale fighter jet deal now on PAC’s scanner

New Delhi: Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, has picked up the Rafale jet purchase and the related CAG audit report among 107 subjects shortlisted for scrutiny. Other controversial subjects chosen by the PAC for its scrutiny include the Goods & Services Tax (GST) and its tax collection network GSTN.

The ruling BJP has a majority in the PAC, comprising MPs from both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, and as such Chowdhury may not able to do much except to keep Rafale as a hot subject. After analysing the CAG reports, the PAC will examine the top officials of the concerned ministries before submitting its report to Parliament. It is here that Chowdhury may put the defence secretary and other officials in the box to extract some of the Rafale information that the government refused to divulge citing agreement with France.

The PAC holds its meetings in camera with no access to the media, but its members in the past leak out information leading to confrontation between the government and the opposition spilling in public. Five aspects of the GST are listed for probe by the PAC. These include IT audit of GSTN and revenue and return filing trends. Other important subjects selected by the PAC for scrutiny include the performance and audit report on National Rural Drinking Water Programme, Namami Ganga Project and engagement of the contract labour by the Indian Railways.

The last PAC headed by Mallikarjun Kharge had embarrassed the Modi government by summoning the finance ministry officials and the governors of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to scrutinise the effects of the demonetisation.

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