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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Defence ministry ‘report’ picks holes in arms-buying procedure

Only 8-10% of the 144 deals initiated during the last three years came to fruition within the stipulated time period

india Updated: Feb 26, 2018 22:45 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Special exhibition of Arms by Indian Army.
Special exhibition of Arms by Indian Army.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT File Photo)

A defence ministry document purportedly picking holes in India’s arms-buying procedures has painted a grim picture of how unreasonable delays are hindering the military’s modernisation, at a time when several key programmes are running years behind schedule and some remain stuck on the drawing board.

Only 8-10% of the 144 deals initiated during the last three years came to fruition within the stipulated time period, an NDTV report said on Monday, quoting from an “internal report prepared in late 2017 by minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre”.

Hindustan Times could not independently verify the contents of the purported report and a defence ministry spokesperson did not immediately confirm or deny the report.

However, it is no secret that several projects have been hit by inordinate delays, experts say. These include the purchase of assault rifles, light machine guns, artillery guns, fighter planes, mid-air refuellers and submarines.

“I cannot comment on the authenticity of the report but the fact is that several of our projects are floundering at one stage or the other,” said a person tracking the military’s modernisation.

The development comes days after India dropped a plan to locally produce single-engine fighters in collaboration with a global defence contractor to expand the scope of the competition by including twin-engine fighters too. The Centre is preparing to launch a fresh hunt for fighter aircraft to sharpen the combat edge of the Indian Air Force, more than 10 years after it floated a global tender for the jets.

Quoting the purported “27-point” document, the channel said arms procurement was hindered by lack of accountability, multiple decision heads, duplication of processes, delayed execution, lack of real-time monitoring and a tendency to fault-find rather than to facilitate.

It added that the Make in India plan had failed to “demonstrate its true potential” due to flaw-ridden processes and delays.

The news report said from the time of issuing a global tender to hammering out a final contract, the delays hovered between 2.6 times to 15.4 times over the stipulated time frame.

It also said lack of synergy between the three services had put greater strain on the defence budget and different departments of the ministry “appear to be working in independent silos” on the basis of their interpretation of policy.

The report said at 120 weeks, the average time to clear files
at the global tender stage was six times more than the timeline prescribed in defence procurement rules.

“The fastest RFP clearance was accorded in 17 weeks, while the slowest took a monumental 422 weeks (over eight years),” the channel said quoting from the purported report.

First Published: Feb 26, 2018 22:43 IST