Army, IAF chiefs to appear before PAC Wednesday

This is the first time that the PAC has summoned the chiefs of the three services for providing accounts of the canteens to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

"The PAC has been informed that General V.K. Singh and Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Naik will be appearing," an official familiar with the development said, adding that since Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma is on a "pre-scheduled visit" to Indonesia, he would be represented by his deputy, Vice Admiral D.K. Deewan.

The CAG, in its report in August last year, had criticised the services over the way Canteen Stores Department (CSD) and its unit-run canteens function and the lack of transparency in their accounting methods.

The PAC had later sought answers from the defence ministry, which in turn had written to the service chiefs on the alleged irregularities.

The military had defended its actions, saying the services had their own internal audit mechanisms to keep a watch on canteens.

The ministry also asked the PAC to speak to the three service chiefs and sought answers from them on the queries raised by the auditor.

The PAC then wrote letters to the service chiefs asking them to appear before the committee Jan 12.

Sources told IANS that the defence ministry has asked the service chiefs to appear before the PAC over the issue.

There are some 3,600 unit-run canteens, which operate on soft loans extended by the military and operate from military premises. The CAG report said that the concessions given to the canteens resulted in a loss of Rs.441 crore to the government from 2002-03 to 2008-09.

The CAG report had criticised the existing methods of ration procurement by canteens and castigated the military, saying there were "systemic deficiencies" in running the canteens.

It said existing procedures were not enough to "realistically" assess the requirements of dry rations.

As per the procedures, the CAG can seek details from the ministry over alleged irregularities, if any, and the defence secretary usually attends to such calls by parliamentary committees. Thus, calling the service chiefs is a first.

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