NEW DELHI (TIP): Apportioning blame on the AtalBehari Vajpayee-led PMO, the Ministry of Defence todaysaid specifications in the VVIP helicopter deal weremooted in 2003, while it separately asked AgustaWestlandto categorically state its financial transactions withagents in India.The letter to AgustaWestland is the first indication thatthe deal is to be cancelled with imposition of financialpenalties on the helicopter maker and recovery of allmoney with interest, sources said.
India had ordered 12 helicopters for VVIP use fromAgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica. The Rs3,500-crore deal was signed in February 2010 and the firstlot of three helicopters was delivered last December. Thedelivery of the remaining nine, which were scheduled tobe delivered in batches by March 2014, was put on holdyesterday. Allegations of bribery surfaced after Italyarrested the Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi and theMoD ordered a CBI probe on February 12.
Today, the defence ministry issued a seven-page“factsheet”. It narrated how the operative requirements(specifications) were changed following the observationsof Principal Secretary to PM (Brajesh Mishra) inNovember 2003. It also exposed former IAF Chief SPTyagi’s claim that “no specifications were changed in mytime as Chief ”.The MoD note said the new specifications weredeliberated between the IAF, Special Protection Group,PMO and MoD between March 2005 and September 2006and the changes were incorporated. SP Tyagi was IAFChief between December 31, 2004 and March 31, 2007.
The factsheet says: “The Principal Secretary to the PMobserved on November 19, 2003 that his main concernwas the framing of the mandatory requirements had ledinto a single vendor situation. The PM and Presidentrarely visit places involving flying at an altitude beyond4,500 metre. It was decided to make the mandatoryrequirement for operational altitude 4,500 metre. Thehigher flying ceiling of 6,000 metre and cabin height of1.8 metre could be made desirable operationalrequirements. It was observed that with these revisions,several helicopters which otherwise met allrequirements but had been rejected due to the altituderestriction, would now come into the reckoning.” One ofthem was AW 101 of AgustaWestland, which was laterselected.In the first global tender issued in March 2002, onlythe Eurocopter EC 225 was found suitable foracquisition. The AgustaWestland helicopter was notcertified to fly at 6,000 metre while the Russian M-17-2did not meet mandatory requirements.
This made it asingle vendor situation — not permitted under defenceprocurement rules.“On December 22 , 2003, the Principal Secretary to thePM asked to draw up realistic mandatory requirementssatisfying operational, security and conveniencerequirements and also set in motion a fast track processfor selection and acquisition,” the note says.In May 2004, the NDA lost the elections and the UPAwas voted to power. Now President, Pranab Mukherjeewas the Defence Minister between May 23, 2004 andOctober 24, 2006.The note now explains: “The Acceptance of Necessity(AON) for the procurement of 12 helicopters wasaccorded by the Defence Acquisition Council under the‘buy’ category on January 3, 2006.
The request forproposal (RFP) was issued to six vendors on September27, 2006.”Besides AgustaWestland, Sikorsky of USA and.Russian MI-17-2 responded to the RFP. The StaffEvaluation Report found the AW-101 to be fully compliantas a VVIP copter. The Technical Oversight Committeeconstituted on August 6, 2008, found that the fieldevaluation trials and selection of vendors were doneaccording to prescribed procedures.