Shri G C Murmu
Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG)
Dear Shri Murmu,
I invite your attention to the following report on an ongoing investigation by the Supreme Audit Office of Poland into the alleged purchase of the controversial Pegasus software by the government of that country and its possible misuse for illegally exercising surveillance over Poland’s opposition leaders.
Apparently, the Polish government had purchased Pegasus software from Israel’s NSO at a cost of $8.25 million drawn from an irregular budgetary head. The State-controlled Audit Office in Poland did not hesitate to take up investigation into this matter.
The office of the CAG had entered into an MOU with the Supreme Chamber of Control of the Republic of Poland on 10-5-2020 (https://cag.gov.in/uploads/media/SAI-Poland-MoU-20210928-0001-1-20211018103123.pdf), which provides for mutual exchange of information on their respective experiences to help improve the efficacy of audit. I would earnestly suggest that your office should get the details from your counterpart in Poland, as there have been allegations of similar misuse of the same spyware in India.
The Indian Parliament and the State legislatures repose their trust in the office of the CAG for an independent audit of the accounts and the performance of the Centre and the States. There have been reports that the Pegasus software had been acquired by several agencies in India, possibly government agencies, as according to NSO of Israel, the software is sold only to government agencies.
In the past, there were reports of Pegasus use in AP, Chattisgarh and Maharashtra. In that connection, I had written several letters to the Union Home Ministry for a thorough investigation, as the States would not have purchased such sensitive software without the Centre’s clearance. Some officials of the AP government were reported at that time to have visited Israel. A copy of my correspondence on the subject with the Union Home Ministry is enclosed. A more recent letter of mine addressed to the Union Home Secretary may be seen at https://countercurrents.org/2021/07/pegasus-spyware-need-for-thorough-investigation/.
It is possible, as we see from the targeted persons in India, that some Central agency had also procured the software from the NSO, with the consent of the government of Israel.
As an independent Constitutional authority reporting to the legislature, I believe that the CAG office has an obligation to report on the details of the purchase of Pegasus, not only because it involves both non-recurring and recurring expenditure at the cost of the public exchequer but also because it has far reaching implications for safeguarding the democratic spirit underlying the Constitution.
I hope that your office, as is being done by your counterpart in Poland, will take up this matter for an independent audit.
Considering that an expert panel appointed by Hon’ble Supreme Court is looking into this, your inputs will undoubtedly provide an objective insight to that committee.
I hope that your office will take up an audit without any hesitation whatsoever.
E A S Sarma, Former Secretary to GOI, Visakhapatnam