The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), hit by a string of corruption charges against its senior-most officer, will no longer have a free run in awarding contracts.
Bribery charges against Sudipto Ghosh, the former chief of the country’s main producer of military arsenal, forced the government into clean-up mode.
The Kolkata-based Board so far enjoyed near-autonomy in awarding lucrative deals, but now on, the decision-making process will involve senior bureaucrats of the defence ministry.
“We are curbing the autonomy of the Board for the sake of transparency,” a top ministry official told HT on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Senior ministry officials will now be present at all the Board meetings, he said.
In the first week of June, the ministry froze all business with seven tainted defence firms whose names had cropped up during CBI investigations. Ghosh is said to have received kickbacks to favour these firms.
To rid the Board of corruption taint, the defence ministry has ordered a joint secretary and a senior bureaucrat from the defence (finance) department to make themselves permanently available for all Board meetings.
Two additional secretaries, too, have been asked to attend the next three Board meetings. “We will be monitoring the OFB very closely. Steps will also be taken to make sure there is no shortfall in meeting production targets,” the official said.
The Board has been under-performing for several years. The shortfall in meeting targets ranges between 21 and 35 per cent since 2002-03.
It controls 39 ordnance factories engaged in the production of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, bombs, rockets, artillery guns, anti-aircraft guns, parachutes, small arms, clothing and leather equipment for soldiers.
The Board is also collaborating with foreign firms for several products.
It has supplied military hardware worth around Rs 30,000 crore to the armed forces over the last six years, apart from Rs 10,000 crore flowing in from civil trade and export.