Special Correspondent

MPs express concern over "deep penetration" of Ministry

  • Panel members critical of purchase procedure
  • Ask Government to improve security system

    NEW DELHI: The Government on Friday came out with an assurance to Members of Parliament on the issue of leakage of sensitive information from the Defence Ministry. It said proper systems and procedures had been put in place to prevent further leaks.

    At a meeting of the Consultative Committee on Defence on Friday, the members citing the CBI charge sheet in the Navy War Room leak case expressed concern over the "deep penetration" of the Ministry by arms agents and the startling revelation by the CBI about the passing on of the secret Tenth Defence Plan and other sensitive documents, reliable sources said.

    The MPs said that though the CBI recovered three pen drives, more information could have been leaked through five missing pen drives.

    They felt the purchase procedure left a lot to be desired in view of delays in placing orders.

    Defence Minister A.K. Antony, senior bureaucrats and Service officials were present at the mmeting.

    An official news release said the members "asked the Government to improve the security system on an urgent basis so that incidents, such as the Naval War Room case do not recur."

    The Government's response was that the leakage went undetected because of unfamiliarity with new technology, such as pen drives. It has since banned their usage in the Ministry, segregated computers with Internet connections and maintained a detailed usage history.


    Other modifications included providing information to officers about sensitive projects on a need-to-know basis. "The officers are now given access only to that portion of the projects which concerns them, instead of letting them view the entire policy or project."

    Defence Secretary Shekhar Datt and Vice-Chief of the Naval Staff Venkat Bharathan gave the Government's view on the curbing of leaks.

    The meeting discussed the procurement procedures against the backdrop of reports on critical observations by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) V.N. Kaul.

    Mr. Antony said the new Defence Purchase Policy (DPP), announced two months ago, could be prematurely reviewed. The policy came into force on September 1 and the next review was due after two years.

    "If we feel that there is an urgent need for review, we will not wait for two years. Our effort will be to make the procedures foolproof and to avoid any scope for corruption."

    Earlier this week, the CAG said the Defence Ministry's revamped DPP was "still not ideal" and "there is a clear case for change."

    The fresh effort this year to streamline and integrate procedures had failed to create a new organisational culture and evolve a code of conduct for acquisition that was "able to sustain public confidence in the system."

    The CAG also referred to controversies "almost every year" on defence-related issues after the tabling of audit reports.

    In a report in May, it said slippages in delivery schedules and partial customisation had led to a Rs. 18,000-crore increase in the price of Sukhoi aircraft from the original estimate of Rs. 22,000 crores.