The Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) 2006-07 has asked the ministry of defence to make use of fact-track procedure (FTP) for military acquisitions only in "emergent unavoidable circumstances."
In its 34th report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the PAC has emphasised that the MoD should work out a mechanism for timely assessment of the requirements of the armed forces and make acquisitions under the normal procedure. The Defence Procurement Procedure 2006 incorporates a fast-track procedure for meeting urgent operational requirements of the armed forces.
The PAC report on 'delayed purchase and insignificant utilisation of equipment procured under fast-track procedure' deals specifically with the acquisition of de-mining equipment for the removal of over 10 lakh mines laid along the western front during Op Parakram in 2001. The army had projected a requirement of 40 de-mining sets in August 2002 under the FTP.
The aim was to minimise the risk of casualty involved in manual de-mining and free the mined land for cultivation. The Committee report states that the army had ample time to plan and procure the equipment under the normal procedure. "The need of FTP had arisen only because of inaction on the part of authorities."
The PAC has noted that the equipment purchased due to operational urgency was hardly utilised, as most of the minefields had already been de-mined manually. “Out of the 2.78 lakh mines proposed to be recovered, only 1,182 mines (0.42 per cent) were recovered using the de-mining equipment and rest were removed manually,” the PAC said.
The PAC has also criticised the decision of the government to accept delivery period of nine months against the original schedule of four months. The report reads: “Even though the equipment was sought to be procured under the FTP, the government did not specify a shorter delivery schedule but merely asked the vendor to deliver the goods at the earliest.”
The equipment was received from Denmark-based firm Hydrema 8 to 16 months beyond the date stipulated by the army headquarters. The Committee has observed that despite the substantial delay in the completing of the contract, liquidated damages clause was not invoked and penalty not imposed on the vendor.
Deploring the lackadaisical approach of the ministry, the Committee has recommended that all future contracts should incorporate such a clause and penalise the vendor for delays.