Amid allegations of conflict of interest in Rafale deal, the Finance Ministry Monday said that Rajiv Mehrishi, who joined the ministry as Economic Affairs Secretary, has never dealt with expenditure proposals from the Defence Ministry.
The clarification comes in the backdrop of the Congress alleging that the incumbent Comptroller and Audit General of India Rajiv Mehrishi should recuse himself from the audit report of Rafale deal as he was the Finance Secretary during the negotiation for the aircraft.
“It is a matter of convention that the senior most Secretary is designated as Finance Secretary and while he assumes a coordination role, he continues as Secretary of his own Department,” said an official statement.
“To claim that Secretary (Economic Affairs) as Finance Secretary would have dealt with the expenditure proposals from the Ministry of Defence is totally a figment of imagination and stretch of facts,” as per the statement.
It is pertinent to point-out here that it is the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance which deals with financial sanctions relating to all the ministries of the government and in that capacity, any files relating to defence procurement would be dealt with by the Secretary, Department of Expenditure and not by Mehrishi as Economic Affairs Secretary, the ministry added.
Rajiv Mehrishi, joined Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance as Secretary on 31.10.2014. Being the senior most Secretary among the five Secretaries of the five Departments of the Ministry, viz. Economic Affairs, Expenditure, Financial Services, Revenue and Investment & Public Assets Management of Ministry of Finance, he was designated as the Finance Secretary on 11.11.2014. He continued as Secretary (Economic Affairs) & Finance Secretary till 31.08.2015 when he demitted office.
The Congress on Sunday alleged that the government compromised “national interest” and “national security” in the purchase of the 36 aircraft and said the CAG has a constitutional and statutory duty to undertake a forensic audit of all defence contracts, including the Rafale deal.
“It is an act of gross impropriety for you to deal with the audit of the 36 Rafale aircraft deal on account of patent conflict of interest… You are constitutionally, legally and morally disentitled to either conduct an audit or to present a report before… Parliament. We urge upon you to recuse yourself and publicly accept the gross impropriety committed by you in initiating the audit…,” the Congress had said.
Soon after this, Union Minister Arun Jaitley had in a series of tweets said after ten years in government, former UPA ministers still don’t know that Finance Secretary is only a designation given to the senior most secretary in the finance ministry.