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03:06 PM, September 2, 2013
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AgustaWestland Contests Indian Auditor General Report

AgustaWestland (AW) which is facing bribery charges in the sale of 12 VVIP AW101 helicopters to the Indian Air Force has contested a report of India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) “in the interest of accuracy of balance”.

 

In a communication to the CAG last week, AW has said that it would have been able to demonstrate flight operations at a height of 6,000 meters rather than 4,500 meters as was mandated in the 2006 RFP. 

 

One of the main charges against AW is that the services ceiling had been lowered to facilitate entry of AW into the competition, with the help of agents who paid bribes to Indian officials.

 

The communication said had the services ceiling requirement remained at 6000 meters for the 2006 RFP, the AW101 would have been able to demonstrate compliance with that requirement during the 2008 Flight Evaluation Test. This means that the reduction of this requirement to 4,500 metres was not required to allow AW101 to compete. 

 

AW also claimed that it had written on June 29, 2005 to Air HQ confirming that the AW101 could be modified to meet a 6,000 meters service ceiling requirement in any future RFP if needed.

 

It further said that flight evaluation trials were carried out on “actual” AW101 aircraft. Merlin is the name used for AW101 by the British armed forces. The AW101 is not an aircraft still in development.

 

The CAG report had said that the field evaluation trials for the Agusta chopper was done on representative model, Merlin as the AW-101 model was still in the development phase.

 

The communication said that the cabin height services quality requirement of 1.8 metres did not lead to the ejection of any of the competing aircraft. All aircraft met or exceeded this requirement. This meant there was no single vendor situation after the 2006 RFP.

 

However, the communication remained silent on the CAG report’s contention that the benchmark cost of $731 million for the 12 VVIP choppers was "unreasonably high" as compared to the $590 million quoted by AgustaWestland.

 

In another interesting development, Indian defence minister A. K. Antony told parliament last week, “after issuance of RFP for the procurement of 12 VVIP/VIP helicopters, certain changes, with the approval of the competent authority in terms of Defence Procurement Procedure-2006, have been made in technical requirements on the basis of the recommendation of the stakeholders to meet the requisite standards of operational safety and security”. 

 

The international media has expressed surprise at this statement.  Defense-Aerospace.com said, “this is a very surprising statement.By saying that changes made to the helicopter RFP after it was issued were recommended by “stakeholders,” and that they also were approved by the “competent authority,” Antony clearly undermines the credibility of on-going investigations by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation and by Italian magistrates”. 

These investigations have focused on persistent but as yet unproven allegations that changes to the RFP requirements were made surreptitiously and illegally to favour AgustaWestland’s AW101, in exchange for bribes paid to Indian officials, it said.

 

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