Rotten to core

Yet another major kickbacks scandal has come to the surface with charges of payment of large commissions related to contracts worth Rs 10,000 crore between British engine manufacturing major Rolls Royce and the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

While employment of middle men in negotiation of contracts is illegal, Rolls Royce has admitted that it had used the services of a ‘commercial adviser’ in its dealings. It could only be a different name for an intermediary  who facilitated the deal, and it has been identified as a Singapore-based company which is alleged to have been paid Rs 650 crore. Rolls Royce has also admitted that the payment was made. The role of other intermediaries employed by the company, under investigation by the UK authorities, has  also come under the scanner. After  the information became public the defence ministry has ordered a CBI inquiry and frozen all deals with Rolls Royce. 

It reflects poorly on the government that it gets to know about corruption and violation of rules in defence deals only after foreign governments initiate action against errant companies and arms dealers employed by them. This was also the case with the Agusta helicopter deal scandal  in which a former air force chief is alleged to be involved. Though the use of middlemen has long been banned it is known that they have a role in many defence procurement contracts. It is ironical that governments in countries where beneficiary companies are located have to expose the irregularities in contracts with Indian companies and buyers of equipment like the Indian Air Force. That speaks volumes about the efficacy of the arrangements put in place in the country to ensure that the deals are straight and clean.
Defence minister AK Antony is known to be above corruption but paradoxically his long tenure in the ministry has done more damage to the forces and the country’s defence preparedness than the tenure of most others in the past. He has ordered inquiries and frozen deals and blacklisted many suppliers but has not succeeded in rooting out corruption. His actions have only resulted in delays in procurement of vital equipment and spare parts. Good and efficient management consists not in avoiding decisions but in taking them at the right time, without giving scope for irregularities. Antony could
neither stem corruption nor do justice to his job.

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