Tuesday, Jul 01, 2003
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In a meeting with the Defence Minister, George Fernandes, the Central Vigilance Commissioner, P. Shankar, also felt the MoD's vigilance machinery should be authorised to probe even `sensitive' deals that are normally kept away from its purview.
The meeting, also attended by senior MoD officials, reviewed the progress of the cases being examined by the CVC. The scrutiny had started in the wake of the Tehelka scam when Mr. Fernandes asked the CVC to investigate, through the CBI, all major defence purchases since 1985-86 when Rajiv Gandhi took over as Prime Minister.
While making the recommendation to the CVC in February 2000, Mr. Fernandes had said that all current procurement cases would be sent to the CVC.
The step was supposed to be a stop-gap arrangement till the MoD set up a panel of ``eminent persons'' who would vet each major deal before the final approval was given.
However, with the proposal not gaining the approval of the Government, the CVC has continued to `help out' the Ministry. The interaction, described as ``long overdue'' by MoD officials, took place on a day when Mr. Fernandes expressed concern over the slow decision making process in his Ministry because of the ``atmosphere of fear''.
Speaking to newspersons, he said that most major procurement decisions had been held up because officials were ``afraid'' of giving their consent.
They feared ``they would be ruined if they signed the files'' and as a result, officials were saying that they ``would not touch procurement related files,'' complained Mr. Fernandes.
He said that despite allegations from ``uninformed'' people, he was willing to ``stick my neck out'' to ensure that long standing demands of the armed forces were met.
A meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security was planned towards the middle of the next month to discuss the purchase of advanced jet trainer (AJT) for the Air Force.
The CCS would deliberate over whether the whole issue should be examined afresh or the Government should sign the deal with British Aerospace for its `Hawk' AJT. The proposal was first made in the mid-Eighties.
The Minister also said that the plan to purchase and construct submarines from France was also stuck because of allegations of money laundering and conspiracy theories.
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