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SOURCE: PTI

National auditor CAG on Wednesday criticised the defence ministry for inordinate delays in the upgradation of the medium-lift Mi-17 helicopters of the IAF and said the fleet was flying with limited capability, compromising the operational preparedness of the force. In a report tabled in Parliament, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said 56 of these helicopters would be left with less than two years of life after their upgradation as per the delayed delivery time-line.

“The upgradation of medium-lift Mi-17 Helicopters proposed in 2002 to overcome the operational limitation of these helicopters could not be achieved even after 18 years,” the CAG said. As a result, the auditor observed, the helicopters were flying with limited capability, compromising the operational preparedness of the country.

“The (defence) ministry due to poor planning and indecision at various stages of procurement took 15 years to enter (January 2017) into the upgradation contract of 90 Mi-17 helicopters with an Israeli company,” the CAG said. “The contracted delivery of these upgraded helicopters was to start from July 2018 and be completed by 2024. Audit however noted that after upgradation, 56 of these helicopters would be left with less than two years of life and would be phased out by 2024,” it added.

The CAG also criticised the Indian Air Force for concluding a contract in March 2010 with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the supply of five UAV Rotax engines at an inflated cost of Rs 87.45 lakh per engine. It said the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a DRDO laboratory, in April 2012 had procured the same variant of Rotax engine at Rs 24.30 lakh per engine.

“Also, the average price of this engine in the international market ranged between Rs 21 lakh and Rs 25 lakh. As a result, the vendor gained an undue benefit of Rs3.16 crore as it supplied the five contracted UAV engines at more than three times the market price or the price offered to the DRDO unit,” the CAG said. It also noted that the vendor resorted to mis-labelling and supplied uncertified engines to IAF instead of the contracted certified engines.

The CAG also questioned the functioning of Bangaluru-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), a premier research agency involved in the development of India’s first indigenously developed fighter aircraft Tejas. It said a review of ADA’s functioning revealed several shortcomings related to governance, contract management and human resources management.

The CAG also observed that the IAF irregularly authorised ‘modified field area allowance’, ‘counter insurgency allowance’ and paid acting rank’ of Group Captain in violation of laid down norms. “Audit noted that during 2014-19, the grant of these allowances and acting rank had a financial burden of Rs 20.02 crore. This amount is due for recovery from the concerned IAF personnel,” it said.