Report: ISRO Broke Rules in Setting up Sweetheart Deal

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A report by India’s comptroller and auditor general said the nation’s space agency violated rules and concealed information related to a since-scuttled deal in which it granted a private company the commercial marketing rights to a pair of government-funded S-band communications satellites.

The report, released to India’s parliament May 15, described the deal between the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Devas Multimedia as a “classic case of public investment for private profit.” Under the 2005 deal, Devas, whose leadership included former senior ISRO officials, was granted marketing rights to 90 percent of the capacity aboard the planned satellites at below-market rates and without competition.

India’s Department of Space, which oversees ISRO, “violated numerous rules, policies, and procedures” while suppressing information including the “crucial fact” that the deal gave a private company rights to nearly all of the capacity aboard government-funded satellites while ignoring their potential to generate revenue to the government, the report said.

In January, the government blacklisted former ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair and three others for their roles in the deal. Nair had appealed to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a fresh probe in hopes of being exonerated.