|Sunday, February 6, 2000,
to probe post-85 defence deals
NEW DELHI, Feb 5 The Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, has asked the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to institute a probe by the CBI into all defence purchases since 1985-86, when the government banned the role of middlemen in such deals.
The minister has also instructed the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) to conduct thorough investigations into allegations of excessive and wrong purchase of spares in the past 15 years, an official press note said here today.
CVC V.N. Vittal said the Central Vigilance Commission would give top priority to investigating defence deals in view of the sensitive nature of the subject. Asked about his reaction to the order of Defence Minister George Fernandes, Mr Vittal said the commission was awaiting the terms and reference of the order. Mr Vittal said: We have to go through all the records. If necessary, we will seek the help of the CBI in the investigation.
The CAG has also been asked to conduct a special audit for emergency purchase of items for the recent Kargil operations.
Mr Fernandes has taken the major step in view of persistent allegations of corruption and role of middlemen and agents in defence deals and to ensure transparency in such purchases, the note said.
While the probe into the Rs 1437- crore Bofors gun deal, which was struck after instructions to ban middlemen in defence deals were passed, is on its final stage, other major purchases which would come under the fresh probe would include the acquisition of SU-30 aircraft and billions of rupees spent on purchase of spares for mainly Russian equipment in use with the armed forces.
The initiatives were prompted by the fact that allegations and insinuations continued to be made about even proposed purchases in which decisions have been pending for years. There has hardly been any major defence acquisition which has escaped such allegations.
Three new major acquisitions for the advanced jet trainers (AJTs) for the Indian Air Force (IAF), induction of Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov in the Navy and T-90 main battle tanks (MBTs) for the Army in view of the delay in the indigenous Arjun MBT project are examples where completely unsubstantiated allegations and insinuations have been levelled even though final decisions are yet to be taken.
The controversy over Admiral Gorshkov and the T-90 tanks surfaced in the winter session of Parliament, when there was a short duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the last day on procurement procedures in defence.
During discussions in Parliament charges were levelled that although since 1985-86, the government had been saying that there were no middlemen and agents had been banned, nothing had in fact changed and that there was no defence deal without the presence of middlemen/agents/traders and middle companies.
In view of persistent doubts on the procurement procedures, the Defence Ministry is also considering a standard mechanism for a mandatory and time-bound scrutiny by the CVC and the CAG of all identified major defence related purchase decisions to be taken henceforth, the note said. The ministry has also asked the CAG to investigate the transfer of technology aspect in all major procurement decisions during the past 15 years where transfer of technology was contracted, paid for and technology transfer never took place which hampered indigenous production.
A special group has been constituted in the ministry to be headed by a Joint Secretary or senior-ranking officer, to scrutinise all important observations and findings of the new CAG probe and to fix responsibility for lapses, delays and corrupt practices.
Another reason for the significant step were the allegations made by Rear Admiral S.V. Purohit in his writ petition in the Delhi High Court that corruption and irregularities in purchase of spares for the Navy had been going on for several years now. These allegations would also come under the purview of the new probe.
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