India's defence deals could get cleaner. The defence ministry has finally appointed three independent monitors to ensure companies bidding for defence contracts stick to the no-bribery pledge they have to make.
The government had last year made it mandatory for bidders to sign an Integrity Pact with the ministry for defence contracts in excess of Rs 100 crore; both sides pledge not to offer, pay, accept or seek bribes of any kind or use middlemen.
The appointment of independent external monitors means the pact could start making a difference for the ministry that is budgeted to spend Rs 41,000 crore on the acquisition of weapons and hardware this year. The ministry’s panel of monitors include former cabinet secretary T.R. Prasad and former secretary, coordination, P.C. Rawal. “Independent external monitors are crucial to the whole concept of Integrity Pacts. They are the ones who see provisions of the pact are being faithfully complied with,” Central Vigilance Commissioner Pratyush Sinha told HT.
Admiral (retd) R.H. Tahiliani, chairman of the Indian chapter of Transparency International, agreed: “They play a very vital role. They can sit in on the negotiations and call for any records.” Also, if bidders suspect a competitor is playing foul, they can complain to the external monitor appointed for the deal. The defence ministry's pact requires the monitor to keep the ministry posted of any violation that he may notice or suspect.
"Integrity Pacts can only work if the independent monitors are people of great standing, integrity and impartiality,” Tahiliani said. This is why monitors have to be appointed with the CVC’s concurrence.