A parliamentary panel on Wednesday rapped the army for widespread malpractices in its ration supply chain, a year after the Comptroller and Auditor General revealed that soldiers deployed on the frontline were being fed food unfit for human consumption.
In a report tabled in Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee slammed the army over glaring deficiencies in the supply chain management of rations.
The PAC report comes in the wake of a CAG report last August in which the national auditor had found that soldiers were had been supplied rations that were 28 months past the expiry date.
The Committee said it was shocked to learn that "Estimated Storage Life (ESL) of a number of dry rations was extended by an army lab beyond its permissible limit."
It observed, "Still worse, these dry rations were consumed by the troops even six to 28 months after the expiry of their normal ESL."
The PAC said the mismatch in issue and receipt of rations was inconceivable without the complicity of officers' concerned.
The Army Service Corps (ASC) spends more than Rs 1,440 crore every year on buying rations. Rations worth Rs 1.92 crore were untraceable in Udhampur-based Northern Command as of March 2008.
The PAC also noted with concern that 74% of fresh vegetables and fruits issued to units by supply depots were not in accordance with prescribed norms.
It also slammed the army for not allowing auditors to scrutinise the accounts of the Unit Run Canteens (URCs), with an annual turnover of more than Rs 8,500 crore. There are as many as 3,600 URCs across the country retailing goods supplied to them by the Canteen Stores Department.
The CAG has sought to audit the accounts of URCs, but the army has denied saying these are run by non-public funds.
"What is more intriguing is the fact that such denial was made despite directions of the defence ministry to make records of the URCs available for audit," the PAC observed.
PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi told reporters that the CSD and URCs had reached a turnover of Rs 8,500 crore in 2008-09 and these funds had to be audited as these facilities were built on government land and employed government officials.
He said appearing before the PAC, the three Services had expressed reservations about the audit of URC accounts, but had now agreed to it.