In certain cases troops consumed dry rations 6-28 months after expiry
Pointing out that the Army marches on its stomach, the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has taken exception to its ration supply chain practices and cited several “glaring deficiencies and inadequacies.”
Observing that in certain cases dry rations were consumed by troops even 6-28 months after the expiry of their normal Estimated Storage Life (ESL), the PAC in its report, tabled last week, recommended that the authorities revisit/amend the existing provision of the Army Service Corps technical instructions to ensure that food items were issued in accordance with their ESL.
As for fresh vegetables and fruits, 74 per cent of these items issued to the units by the supply depots were not in accordance with the prescribed norms.
Citing “serious anomalies in receipt and supply of vegetables in one station alone,” the PAC said the Northern Command rations worth Rs. 1.92 crore remained untraceable as on March, 31, 2008. A test check reflected “deep-rooted and widespread malpractices in the supply chain management of the Army.”
Observing “shortcomings” in the procurement procedures of the Army Service Corps, it noted highly non-competitive procurement of fresh rations and deviation from the laid down guidelines.
Deploring the mismatch between the issue and receipt of rations, the PAC said it was inconceivable that such things could happen “without the complicity of officers” concerned.
In another report on the Canteen Stores Department (CSD), the PAC took a serious view of the Army Headquarters denying auditors access to the accounts of the Unit Run Canteens (URCs), which recorded an annual turnover of Rs.8,500 crore during 2008-09.
Noting that the Comptroller and Auditor-General was unable to audit the 3,600 URCs, the report said this restricted parliamentary oversight to the CSD.
The CAG has been seeking to audit the URCs' accounts on the ground that the CSD transfers money from the Consolidated Fund of India in the form of qualitative discounts. But the armed forces are opposed to the move, claiming that the URCs are run with a non-public fund.
“The Committee is dismayed to note that Audit was denied access to records of the URCs by the Army Headquarters in spite of repeated requests…What is more intriguing is the fact that such denial was made despite the directions of the Defence Ministry to make records of the URCs available for audit.”