DRDO's Airborne Early Warning and Control System is based on Embraer ERJ 145 platform

by Pradip R Sagar

Even as the Rafale fighter jet deal with France is causing a lot of noise in and outside the Parliament, four other cases of alleged corruption in defence deals have come up for investigation since 2015.

All these deals were signed during Congress-led UPA government.

In response to a question by BJP MP Anju Bala and Samajwadi Party MP Tej Pratap Singh Yadav in Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre had informed the Parliament that four cases of corruption in defence deals were registered in 2016 by the Central Bureau of Investigation. However, citing the reasons of national security as well as India's relations with the concerned foreign nations, Bhamre refused to divulge the details of agreements signed for the purchase of arms and ammunition.

Major deals that are being probed by the CBI include the Pilatus trainer aircraft deal in which fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari is allegedly involved and the Embraer aircraft deal that DRDO had struck with Brazilian aircraft firm in 2008.

Bhamre further said no firm or entity has been blacklisted for misconduct or wrongdoing in defence deals during the last three years. However, six firms were debarred from further business dealings with the ministry of defence for a period of ten years, he informed the Lok Sabha. He added that this ban was further made applicable to all subsidiary firms of each of these debarred firms until further orders or until such time as the orders of debarring subsists, whichever is earlier.

The junior defence minister also stated that business dealings with14 firms have been suspended. "In respect of another two firms, orders were issued restricting procurement from the concerned firms where procurement was justified and necessary for the reasons of operational urgency, national security and non-availability of other alternatives," Bhamre said, while adding that another two firms have been taken off from the list of restricted procurement, based on closure report filed by the investigating agency and acceptance of the of same by the court.

The ministry of defence, in a vigilance circular issued in February this year, stated that a total of six firms remain blacklisted or “debarred”, out of which four are foreign and two are Indian companies. In addition, dealings are “suspended” with another 14 firms and “restricted” with four. Six firms connected with the main accused in the naval war-room leak case of 2005, Abhishek Verma, Ravi Shankaran and Kulbhushan Parashar, are also in this category. They are Shanx Oceaneering, Inter Spiro India Pvt Ltd, Expert Systems, Unitech Enterprises, Kelvin Engineering and Atlas group of companies. The last firm in this category is Offset India Solutions (P) Ltd.

The MoD has issued guidelines for penalties in business dealings with entities, which have come into effect from November 21, 2016, Bhamre further informed. He also gave details of steps taken to ensure transparency, accountability, probity in defence procurement. These include the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 that envisages signing of an Integrity Pact between government and the bidders for all capital procurement of Rs. 20 crore and above as against the earlier provision of signing of such a pact only in cases involving Rs. 100 crore and above. DPP 2016 also provides that all vendors, including foreign vendors, disclose full details of any such person, party, firm or institution engaged by them for marketing of their equipment in India, either on a country specific basis or as a part of a global or regional arrangement.