MoD tells Air Force to speed up projects

Following a rap by CAG for over a two-decade-delay in commissioning a forward airfield and not activating another for fighter aircraft use, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) asked the IAF to take steps to ensure such strategic projects are completed on time.

The CAG in its report on performance audit of Defence Services (2010-11) questioned the “inordinate delay” in development of airbases.

It  said that despite sanctioning an additional Rs 25.17 crore for speedy completion of the project on fast track basis, frequent changes in plans led to a delay of over two decades in commissioning a strategic forward base airfield.

The paragraph has been considered by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee for examination.
In its reply to the PAC, the Defence Ministry said that the airfield at Phalodi (Rajasthan) is now being optimally utilised by fighter aircraft.

The Ministry  advised the IAF headquarters to take “appropriate measures” to ensure that strategically important projects like development of airbases are taken up after “meticulous and comprehensive planning” so that they are completed within the schedule time and cost.

Citing increasing number of airfields in Pakistan, an approval was granted for the construction of a Fighter Base Support Unit (FBSU) in March, 1985 at Phalodi at a cost of Rs 29.33 crore.

Though the land was acquired in October, 1986, actual construction could not commence as the budgetary support for the FBSU was utilised for other “urgent and operationally important requirements”.

After a gap of more than a decade in January, 2002, the proposal was once again moved for the construction of a full- fledged airfield instead of a mere FBSU which resulted in increased cost of Rs 227.38 crore.

Despite approval, the funds were released in August, 2004 defeating the purpose of sanctioning the project on a fast track basis, the document said.

“The ministry is in agreement with audit’s conclusion that there has been changes in plans and delay of over two decades in the Phalodi project...,” the document said.

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