Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Can we fix corruption in defence deals?

How we can fix corruption in defence deals by By: G R Gopinath
(The author is founder of Air Deccan) Extracts...
Apr 23, 2012, 06.18AM IST

Let's salute General VK Singh for telling the bitter truth: the Indian Army is alarmingly ill-equipped. That the cause of inordinate delay has been due to vested interests: from ignorant or rapacious politicians to bureaucrats, and retired Generals to arms dealers, conniving to divide the spoils from the kickbacks of the deal is not in doubt.
Competing bidders scuttle the deal when they discover they are likely to lose it. An arms dealer is like any salesman. He doesn't care which weapon you buy as long as he pockets his commission. But as the General said, it is a different matter if those awarding the contract compromise with the middlemen and recommend substandard equipment, then he has committed 'high treason'.
Similarly, defence officers posted within the procurement directorate of the three forces must have knowledge and minimum qualifications with a tenure of at least five years. And internally, the organisation must be restructured, and rules framed to ensure that technical evaluation and shortlisting is completed in time.
It is well known that while 'something is rotten' in the defence ministry, all is not well within the three forces either. The arms dealers worm their way through retired Generals to senior officers who are in charge of technical evaluation and user trials, to get better rating for their own arms and fudge those of their competitors. And they use all means: gifts, Swiss accounts and honey traps.
All officials must be vetted by intelligence agencies and the best with impeachable integrity must be appointed and strict vigil kept on them at all times.
Corruption in defence procurement should be treated as treason and Indian Penal Code should be suitably amended.
We have many extremely capable, honest and eminent people who can be picked up to not only formulate a defence procurement policy and enact a robust framework to plug loopholes but also knowledgeable men to fill those posts for procurement on a revolving basis.
May be a separate directorate for procurement is created with stringent qualifications and minimum tenure so that we don't have IAS officers, howsoever brilliant (and most are), who have spent all their life in Jharkhand or Uttar Pradesh in animal husbandry presiding over purchase of crucial high-technology weapon systems.
Systemic changes can be brought about if there's a will and urgency.
Political leadership need not necessarily have expertise in weapons or fighter jets to be able to lead the forces in deciding what armament to acquire, but we can ill-afford lame-duck ministers who are manipulated by an apathetic bureaucracy, who are indecisive and out of depth for the portfolio they hold. In times of crisis, we need political leaders who can galvanise the defence forces and lead from the front.
And the buck stops with the Prime Minister. He can take inspiration and courage from his own life when his mentor P V Narasimha Rao brought him in, a rank outsider and novice to politics, to rescue the country from financial disaster. It may be a good idea to do the same in the defence ministry now, to clean up the Augean stables and lay down sound policies and strengthen the country's defence before it is too late.
How we can fix corruption in defence deals by By: G R Gopinath
Comment: Reforming the MOD is like straightening a curved dogs tail. Can we learn a lesson or two from US... US Defence Secretary unveils blueprint for Defence Reform... click here

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