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Rs 127 cr spent on interiors of VIP jets
CAG takes ministry to task
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 7
Questioning the basic necessity of procuring VIP executive jets by the Air Force, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has taken the Ministry of Defence to task for an exorbitant expenditure of Rs 127 crore entailed on interiors and in-flight entertainment in five jets.

The aircraft were procured last year from Embraer of Brazil for an aggregated cost of Rs 712.51 crore. Of these, four were meant for the IAF’s Delhi-based Communications Squadron, while the remaining aircraft, valued at Rs 141 crore was for the Border Security Force. These aircraft were meant to replace the existing fleet of Avro VIP aircraft.

Observing that the propriety of the acquisition in replacement of the existing fleet was open to question, the CAG, in its latest report said that the expenditure on interiors and in-flight entertainment underscored inadequate concern for economy. “The accepted price for interiors and in-flight entertainment was more than five times than that quoted in the second lowest offer,” the report said. “Such large expenditure on these facilities would appear to be even less justified because of the fact that the current stated price of the aircraft was 22.45 million dollars, which was below the contracted price of 27.26 million,” the report added.

Communications Squadron had seven Avros, which were used for the visit of foreign delegations, Indian VIPs and other entitled persons (OEP). The requirements of the three entitled personages — the president, the vice president and the prime minister were met by Boeing 737 aircraft.

Audit of the actual use of the Arvo fleet showed only about 4 per cent use by the entitled personages. The use by OEPs was 37 per cent, the use for training assignments was 37 per cent and the balance was used for route transport role.

“Considering the prevalent use of the Avro fleet, it would appear that the new aircraft would be used largely to meet the requirements of OEPs who, as per government policy, were expected to make use of commercial air services on official duties,” the report said.

The grounds on which the procurement was justified by the Defence Ministry were higher cruise speed and more comfortable flight. “The reasonableness of these two grounds need to be viewed in the backdrop of the low utilisation of the existing Avro fleet for the entitled personages,” the report said.

Apart from the question relating to the basic necessity of the purchase, the CAG pointed out that several other infirmities were noticed in the processing of the procurement. Though the aircraft were non-defence in nature, the process adopted was “request for proposals” to select vendors rather than open global tenders in contravention of the Defence Procurement Procedure.

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