The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has criticised the army for "unauthorised" utilisation of helicopters of the aviation corps including sorties undertaken on Saturday, Sunday and holidays which cost the exchequer nearly Rs three crore extra as unauthorised expenditure.
The CAG noted that as per paragraph 33 of Compendium on Management of Army Aviation and direction given by the army vice chief on utilisation of the helicopters, the sorties should not be demanded where the civil aircraft is to be made/between places connected by civil aviation, (This should include casualty evacuation also) and when the aircraft is required to stay overnight away from parent base.
Helicopter should also not be used when the aircraft has to undertake a hopping flight to reach destination to undertake the envisaged task, travel time is four hours or less.
Air effort would not be demanded on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Further, it was mentioned in Army Aviation Compendium of Instruction 2008 that no standby aircraft for senior officers would be detailed.
The CAG said that in the Eastern sector, sorties involving 14 helicopters were undertaken between November 2013 and March 2014 wherein the distance travelled was less than three hours by road.
"Besides, on two occasions GOC-in-C, SC, and GOC-inC, CC, undertook sorties along with Regional President-AWWA, involving 17.30 and 20.00 flying hours respectively, covering three States and by hopping flights which was inadmissible," the report said.
It added that 204 Advanced Light Helicopter Squadron was involved in 20 communication sorties in January 2014 to March 2014, involving a night halt on 10 occasions including foreign country (Bhutan).
"Since aircraft are not allowed to stay overnight away from the parent base, the sorties involving night halts were in violation of laid down instructions.
"Standby aircraft were detailed on 16 occasions during 2011-12 to 2013-14 by 204 ALH Squadron. Deployment of standby aircraft 86 hours resulted in unauthorised expenditure of Rs 2.89 crore," the auditor said.
In the northern sector, during the year 2011-12 and 2013-14, at least 856 sorties were undertaken where travel time by road was even less than three hours. In most of the occasions, the road distance was only 20 km.
In the western sector, the CAG observed during the audit of 660 AA Squadron that sorties were used where the distance by road was less than four hours and also during Saturday, Sunday and holidays on 63 occasions during the year 2011-12 to 2013-14 which resulted in unauthorised 60.10 flying hours worth Rs 0.60 crore.
On being pointed out in audit regarding non observance of the instructions for utilisation of the aircrafts, DGAA stated in July 2015 that GOC-in-C, Commands are empowered for anctioning sorties for movement of service personnel as per operational necessity within the respective command area of responsibility.
Regarding the deployment of stand by helicopters, the DGAA stated in July 2015 that no standby aircraft was to be detailed for movement of senior officers.
"Reply of the DG Army Aviation is not acceptable, as notwithstanding the sanctioning powers of the GOC in C, the above stated sorties were carried out in violation of the laid down norms," the CAG said.