The country’s premier external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has cracked down on its own auditor who first raised questions on capital purchases worth millions of dollars.
Sources said that last Thursday, a day before S K Tripathi was named as the next RAW chief, the office of the director (finance) of the agency was searched and several files pertaining to capital purchases that were under its scanner taken away. The director, who was on leave, has been locked out of the office. The deputy director of the department, who was the officiating head, was also questioned for several hours by agency officials. The officer concerned has filed a formal complaint with the Finance Advisor, Ministry of External Affairs.
RAW is the largest recipient of secret funds — Rs 350 crore this year — and is exempt from public scrutiny of its accounts. The only audit mechanism in the agency is its accounts department, and that too on capital expenditure. The agency, which has just undergone a regime change, is under a cloud after objections were raised by the finance department of the Cabinet Secretariat on two major deals: purchase of satellite communication interception systems and aerial surveillance equipment. Both contracts were finalised without carrying out trials of the equipment, a requirement that is mandatory for all defence purchases. In response to the audit objections, RAW officials claimed these decisions were made for “operational reasons.”
The auditor’s office had objected to what it called were irregularities in the $350-million contract for the purchase of aerial surveillance equipment. Members of the technical team evaluating the system, including a senior air force officer, raised objections to the fact that trials were not conducted. As first reported by The Indian Express, the agency has been gripped by a series of controversies as a regime change took place over the past month. Last week, the government appointed Tripathi as the new head after incumbent KC Verma put in his papers a month before he was scheduled to retire. Tripathi will take over on December 30.
The succession drama took a dramatic twist last week after Verma conveyed to the Prime Minister that he wanted to step down a month before schedule so that Verma could take over the top post, citing organisational interests.
-via Indian Express