House panel seeks pre-audit of defence deals

Long-term planning not delivering expected result, says committee report

House panel seeks pre-audit of defence deals

A parliamentary panel has sought pre-audit of procurement by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to avoid the possibility of corruption deals.

The standing committee on defence, said sources, has questioned the Defence Ministry’s long-term strategic planning for failing to ensure timely purchase of military hardware, the absence of which is hurting the country’s security interest.

The panel in its report, which will be tabled in Parliament on Monday, has expressed its ire over the ministry not buying highest priority item for the services.

Though the Parliamentary committee was informed of steps taken to streamline the acquisition policy, it feels the need to improve Long-Term Integrated Perspective Plan for 15 years, prepared by headquarters of integrated staff and applicable from 2012 to 2027.  

Going through details of delays in purchase of several equipment, the panel, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP and former Maj Gen B C Khanduri, felt that the long term planning was not delivering expected results.

The committee, said sources, is of the view that frequent changes of General Staff
Qualitative Requirements (GSQR) is endlessly pushing timelines. The GSQR is an initial step prescribing reasons for purchase, quality requirements and physical and operation details of the hardware to be purchased. The parliamentary body is believed to have ticked off Directorate of General Quality Assurance (DGQA) for failing to ensure that quality products reach the Army.

The members wonder how incidents of barrel bursts of guns and defects like long fuse of grenades are being detected by field formations after getting them in their stores.
For this reason, sources said, the panel in its report has sarcastically remarked that the DGQA is for instilling confidence among the soldiers and not to scare them.

Though the panel does not talk about corruption charges delaying big ticket acquisitions, the sources said its recommendation for a pre-audit of deals by anti-corruption watchdogs – CAG, CVC and CBI – to avoid delays is an indication of what happened during the United Progressive Alliance regime.

At least 10 military modernisation purchases were almost shelved during former defence minister A K Antony’s tenure.

One of them was Rs 36,000 crore VVIP copter deal with Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland which was cancelled on charges of Rs 300 crore bribe being paid to middlemen to clinch the contract. The National Democratic Alliance  government, however, is looking for a way to get out of this messy scenario.

Manohar Parrikar, who took over as new defence minister from Arun Jaitley, in his first brief interaction with media had articulated the need to have a transparent and fast buying process. The panel has expressed its anguish over prolonged delays in purchase of items by the Army, including ammunitions, tanks, artillery guns, bullet proof jackets and rifles.  

The panel believes that the inadequate budgetary allocations for the three services are impacting their preparedness. Though the defence budget is increasing in numerical terms but it is on the decline in comparison to the overall budget.

Interestingly, Mountain Strike Corps raised to counter threat perceptions from China is using equipment sourced from War Wastage Reserves. The panel was informed by senior Army officials of monetary constraints which forced them to use WWR items.
 Though Rs 5,000 crore was earmarked for the Corps, it was part of the overall Army budget and not additional amount especially for newly raised force.

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