The setting up of this body is part of a larger set of reforms being planned for the defence ministry

by Manu Pubby

The government is ready with its plan to create a new body to handle military purchases in a speedy manner. The plan to set up a new defence acquisition organisation has been in the works since last year, with sources telling ET that final touches have been given to its structuring and staffing.

An expert committee has suggested that the organisation should be an autonomous body within the defence ministry, with fixed five-year tenures for officers who would man sensitive posts.

The current system of procurement was established in August 2001 based on recommendations and lessons learnt from the Kargil war. Little has changed since then, barring minor tweaks and regular updates in the procurement policy.

The BJP government had constituted a “committee on setting up defence procurement organisation” in April 2016 that studied models in the US, the UK, France and South Korea before making recommendations. Sources said these suggestions have since been reviewed and Cabinet approvals are currently being processed to take forward the reform, a lack of which has been blamed for years of delays in procurement processes.

Among the changes suggested by the committee led by management guru Pritam Singh was to dismantle the current system that is spread across the armed forces and the ministry. The new body will be given singlepoint responsibility for acquisition of combat platforms, systems and equipment as per plans and within the limits of funds and the time agreed.

The setting up of this body is part of a larger set of reforms being planned for the defence ministry. Discussions are also on for a possible merger of the defence research and production wings within the ministry for greater synergy to meet the demand of the armed forces more efficiently.

On service officers being pushed into procurement duties without having the expertise for it, the panel recommends creating a professional cadre by giving fixed and long-term tenures to officials. The organisation is expected to report to the Director General (Acquisition) but will have personnel from all services. The expert committee has recommended that the first year budget for the body should be Rs 400 crore.

To maintain probity, the committee has suggested that for large-value purchases the Comptroller and Auditor General should carry out pre-audit and that a trust could be created by setting up mechanisms like an ‘ombudsman and an eminent persons group’ to handle disputes and problems.