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NEW DELHI: High priority military projects taken up by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have been riddled with a raft of problems including time and cost overruns, irregular closure, and have even been declared successful despite non-achievement of key objectives, the national auditor has said in its latest report.

Some of these ‘mission mode’ projects were declared successful by DRDO but taken up again as new ones to realise the unachieved objectives of the projects closed earlier, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in the report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

‘Mission mode’ projects refer to high-priority DRDO projects based on specific user requirements with a fixed deadline for their completion, and pivot on technologies already available, proven and accessible within India or from abroad at short notice.

CAG said in 119 of the 178 projects, the original time schedule could not be adhered to; in 49 cases, the additional time taken was more than 100% of the original time-frame, and the overall delays ranged from 16% to 500%, with time extension sought on multiple occasions.

“Time overruns in completion of MM (multi mission) projects, where technologies are either available or easily accessible, defeat the purpose of taking them up as MM projects,” CAG said. The report said despite such projects having a very high outcome certainty due to ready availability of underlying technology, there were considerable delays in initiation and sanction by DRDO.

There were also projects, worth hundreds of crores, that were declared successful but fell short of parameters. “Out of 86 projects declared successful during 2010-2019, in 20 projects involving an expenditure of ₹1,074.67 crore, one or more key objective(s)/parameter(s) was/were not achieved,” the report said.

CAG added that instead of seeking time extension to achieve the objectives, these projects were closed as successful. It said DRDO took up 15 projects worth ₹516.61 crore to accomplish the unachieved objectives of projects closed earlier after declaring them successful.

The report touched upon inefficiencies in planning while flagging concerns about inadequate monitoring by DRDO.

“The inefficiencies in overall project management have resulted in several instances of cost overruns, over-assessment of anticipated benefits of projects, and delay in submission of closure reports.”

Other issues highlighted in the report included delay in productionisation of successful projects, and lack of synergy between DRDO and the services, which resulted in divergent views on qualitative requirements, deliverables and outcome of user trials. “This affected the overall success rate of the MM projects,” CAG added.