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December 12, 2001
1520 IST

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Even non high-altitude weaponry purchases pushed through in the name of Kargil: CAG

After pointing out glaring lapses and improprieties in purchase of specialised mountain warfare equipment for the Kargil war, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said that even non high-altitude weaponry deals were pushed through by the defence ministry in the name of Operation Vijay.

"Though deployment of T-72 tanks was not possible at high altitude," the defence ministry had used the pretext of Operation Vijay and the relaxation of procedures to push through a deal worth $27.17 million in July, 1999 for delivery of 2800 rounds of T-72 ammunition from Israel and another 7000 rounds within six months, the CAG said in its report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

The T-72 ammunition was not the sole case of 'non-emergent requirement' pushed through, the CAG report has pointed out.

Another glaring example was the import of 644 items of spares for combat engineers tractors from the Royal Ordinance, United Kingdom in January, 2000 at an estimated cost of 439,810.33 pounds sterling, it said.

Saying that out of 644 items, 475 spares were only bin items, CAG said the deal was gone through without reviewing the justification for bin samples for spares included in the contract, even though these combat tractors were due to be phased out by 2003.

"Thus even unnecessary and non-emergent requirements were pushed through Operation Vijay procurement," the CAG said.

On T-72 tank ammunition, the report said procurement action had been initiated in August 1997, but a final decision had been delayed as the ammunition was already under production at an ordnance factory in India.

The Ordnance Factory Board has also indicated to the government its ability to supply 31,000 rounds during 1997-98 and 40,000 rounds, the following year if indent was given in advance.

The CAG report said that Chief Controller of Research and Development had even gone to the extent of certifying that the Mark I version manufactured indigeneously met the stated performance level of Israeli ammunition and the improved Mark-2 version was in an advanced stage of development and could perform better.

An optional additional quantity of 26,500 rounds was already available in the supplementary agreement concluded with RVZ Russia, the principal makers of the ammunition, it said.

By excluding the Russian bid on frivolous grounds, the CAG said the government was left with only two offers of which the Ordnance Factory Board was rejected on technical grounds.

Pulling up the government for getting into a single vendor situation, the report said that the negotiations on technology transfer were not fruitful as the firm refused the critical transfer pertaining to Tungsten rods.

The CAG said the deal went through even though sufficient funds were not available under the relevant head for purchase of ammunition adding that relaxed procedure for Kargil operations were used to push through the deal.

The CAG further said these were not the only two cases and referred to another case of projected requirement of 20 short-range additional radars, citing urgent needs for Operation Vijay, which 'appeared imprudent'.

Under an existing agreement with ELTA of Israel, India was to procure 150 of these short range radars at a unit price of $103,000, with the delivery to commence in October, 1999.

It said the army, citing urgent requirements for Kargil operations, projected an immediate induction of 20 radars in July, 1999 and the ministry called for quotations in September 20, 1999 with a delivery schedule of six to eight weeks.

"A higher unit price of $112,500 dollars was quoted by the same company for a shorter delivery period. The offer was accepted and the contract worth $2.3 million concluded," the report said.

Sharply pulling up the government, the CAG said, "Conclusion of a contract at a higher price for Operation Vijay was not justified as the radars were only supplied in August, 2000 (3 sets) and January, 2001 (17 sets) by which time the earlier contract were to have commenced."

The CAG, in a severe indictment, said apart from higher price, the decision to continue with the additional procurement of 20 radars 'appears imprudent'.

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