The Defence Ministry’s reviewed procurement procedure is scheduled to be announced on February 21. The most significant feature of the new policy is a time-bound system for scrutiny of defence purchases, senior South Block sources said. The changes constitute the first set of alterations to the buying policy since it was tweaked in December 2001 by former Defence minister George Fernandes.
A review of the policy — a compulsion under the CMP — was ordered seven months ago by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee to reduce red tape in the procurement procedure. The Finance Ministry cleared the changes last month, and a copy of the new policy will be presented by Defence Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh to Mukherjee a week before the Union Budget on February 28.
Two weeks ago, Mukherjee told a meeting of his Ministry’s Consultative Committee that he hoped the new procedure would be more streamlined towards requirements of the armed forces. Long periods of time between the communication of requirement and signing of a deal, mostly due to unwieldy bureaucratic requirements, have led to increased costs of equipment and lower bargaining power for the Indian Government.
A case in point being the purchase of 66 Hawk-132 jet trainers — 19 years after the IAF said it needed them.
The Defence Ministry is expecting a hike of 20 per cent in this year’s budgetary allocations, on the rationale that this financial year will be marked by payments for orders already placed on equipment that include the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, Phalcon AWACS, MiG-29 fighters and expected orders of Scorpene submarines, 126 multirole fighter aircraft, assorted Naval aircraft, 155mm artillery guns and missile systems.
By December last year, the Ministry had managed to spend 73 per cent of the Rs 77,000 crore allotted to it in the Budget 2004-05. IAF teams to inspect Israeli, French missiles
WITH competition down two firms, the IAF will dispatch teams to Israel and France next month to inspect the two air defence missile systems competing for a Rs 1,500-cr contract, sources said. Israeli defence firms Rafael-IAI’s Spyder system and Ango-French MBDA’s Mica have been shortlisted for the final round of trials to equip the New Western Air Command with a comprehensive ground-based rapid action all-weather air defence capability. —ENS