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FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE

Force Magazine
Guest Column - Force Magazine
Shroud of Secrecy

It’s an open secret that defence procurements have become opportunities for corrupt gains
 

Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman (retd) Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman (retd)

Due to secrecy, the world arms trade lends itself to malpractices. Transparency International counts it in the top three sectors for bribery and corruption (oil and major infrastructure projects being the other two). Worse, as per the estimates of the US government, while accounting for less than one per cent of the international trade, the arms trade accounts for almost 50 per cent of all kickbacks in the world.

Even though India’s defence imports constitute a very small portion of the world trade, they have come to acquire notoriety for sleaze and corruption. Every defence deal gets mired in allegations of irregularities, lack of transparency and financial impropriety. India gained Independence in 1947 and the infamous jeep scandal erupted in 1948. Since then, every major defence deal has been dogged by allegations of kickbacks, controversies and enquiries. Despite the fact that a number of measures have been initiated by successive governments to make defence procurements corruption free, sleaze money continues to tweak the process. The environment is convinced that no deal can be successfully clinched without paying ‘speed money’.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Manohar Parrikar with the three service chiefs General Bipin Rawat, Admiral Sunil Lanba and Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Manohar Parrikar with the three service chiefs General Bipin Rawat, Admiral Sunil Lanba and Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa

Transgressions in the purchase of helicopters for VVIPs have been hogging headlines for the last five years. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), ‘the entire process of acquisition poses serious questions on accountability and lack of transparency in the finalisation of contract, which need to be addressed’.

Similarly, purchase of two fleet tankers from Fincantieri during the period 2008-10 was severely criticised by CAG for showing undue favour to the Italian shipyard – the company did not have the specified steel and the commercial negotiations did not address the issue of reasonability of pricing adequately. Selection of Rafale aircraft as the lowest bidder also came under cloud for inequitable comparison.

Recurrent generation of demand for TATRA vehicles is an example of systemic corruption of the system. As the vendor was obliging all decision makers, it had become an annual ritual. Requirements were inflated to increase the amount of kickbacks. In September 2010, the then Army Chief declined to clear procurement of 1,600 TATRA vehicles. It was a patently sham demand to place orders on BEML for illegal gains. Apparently, the vehicles were not required as no procurements have been done since then.

 
 
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