With yet another scam threatening to rock the UPA Government, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has finally initiated an inquiry, following the CAG report, into irregularity in the purchase of Rs 450 crore worth Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV) by National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO).
Sources said the PMO took the action after CAG submitted its report on the functioning of the technical intelligence wing of NTRO, which works directly under the National Security Advisor. However, according to highly placed sources, the PMO is yet to decide whether to table the CAG report in Parliament. The report was submitted to the President in the second week of February.
Sources told The Pioneer that the PMO had asked NTRO to explain the manipulation of the approval of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in the purchase UAVs, which are presently defunct.
Sources said following the PMO’s directive, the NTRO summoned its former officials who were engaged in the dubious purchase of UAVs in 2007 from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Among those summoned by NTRO are some Major Generals, who were on deputation to the organisation, as well some senior finance officials, sources said. “These officials were directly involved in the purchase of UAV,” sources said.
According to sources, a section in the Government is trying to scuttle the tabling of the CAG report in Parliament citing that it was marked “top secret”. But CAG officials claim that any of their reports submitted to the President has to be ultimately tabled in Parliament and sent to the Public Accounts Committee.
In 2007, the CCS had approved Rs 300 crore for the purchase of UAVs, but NTRO’s top brass spent additional Rs 150 crore for purchase of satellite link and electronic intelligence link from Israeli vendors.
The NTRO chairman is empowered to make payment up to Rs 20 crore without any approval from the top. But the NTRO chief circumvented the rules by incurring the additional expenses of Rs 150 crore in several installment below Rs 20 crore. The CAG report indicted former NTRO chairman KVSS Prasada Rao and current advisor MS Vijayaragavan for this misdeed.
In its damaging report on NTRO, the sensitive organisation under the Prime Minister, the CAG exposed that the UAV machines provided by the Israeli vendors had become non-functional. The satellite link purchased was not at all meant for dedicated transmission, as it was an open mode of transmission and any body could download the sensitive data sent from UAVs. Later the network regulator, under the department of telecom had shot down the usage of these UAVs due to the absence of a dedicated satellite link, said sources. The entire UAVs are now grounded.
The CAG report says that it was shocking to note that the NTRO’s top brass had accepted the claim of the Israeli vendors that the “satellite link was successfully tested in Australia.”
MK Narayanan was the National Security Advisor (NSA) when NTRO executed this dubious deal.
This is the first time CAG conducted the audit of an intelligence agency. On complaints from whistleblowers, the CAG decided to undertake the audit in December 2009 even though it was vehemently opposed by Narayanan. After the Prime Minister overruled Narayanan’s objections, the CAG started the audit in January 2010.
-via The Pioneer