The Comptroller and Audit General (CAG) authority has cracked open a purchase scam featuring unwarranted purchase of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) worth Rs. 450 crore from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
CAG unearthed that the scam when these alleged UAVs were found lying as junk with the Hyderabad-based National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), the technical arm of the external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
In the first-ever audit of any intelligence agency in India, the CAG uncovered that the alleged UAVs provided by the Israeli vendors had become non-functional and were unaccounted.
In 2007, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had approved Rs. 300 crore worth of purchase of UAVs, but NTRO overstepped the rules and ordered additional purchase of Rs. 150 crore worth of satellite links and electronic intelligence link from the Israeli vendor, without consenting with the CSS, when only payments of up to Rs. 20 crore are permitted to the NTRO top brass. CAG, in its probe, found that the satellite link purchased was not utilized for the dedicated transmission; for it was an open and highly unsafe mode of transmission from which anyone could download the sensitive data sent from UAVs.
The usage of these UAVs, CAG reports, was susceptibly called off due to the absence of a secure, dedicated satellite link and the UAVs were cast out. The CAG has called the fault of the NTRO officials for engaging in the unwarranted purchase and blindly following the Israeli vendor’s word that the satellite link had been successfully tested in Australia before it was signed off.
Following a tip-off from a whistle blower, the CAG took on the task of probing into the matter, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sanctioned an inquiry into the same, considering the tip-off was too sensitive to be ignored.
CAG has questioned top officials, including some senior finance officials and major generals, while ex-NTRO chairman K.V.S.S. Prasad Rao, and current advisor M S Vijayaraghavan, have been indicted in the CAG report.