`Strict action necessary to check malpractices in acquisition`
New Delhi: After scrapping the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, Defence Minister AK Antony on Thursday said though cancellation of contracts leads to delays in modernisation, government will take such actions to end malpractices and corruption in the military acquisition process.
Addressing a press conference at the biennial Defexpo military exhibition, the Defence Minister admitted that the military procurement process "may not be 100 per cent clean" but the strict actions such as blacklisting of firms has sent a strong signal to vendors that any "mischief in Indian acquisition process can be dangerous".
"We have to take strong actions to end corruption and malpractices in the defence procurement process. Sometimes this may lead to delays and setbacks but this helps us to streamline the system.
"But if there are malpractices and corruption, you have to cancel, you have to punish and if the charges are proved, you have to blacklist. That is our law and we will continue to do that," Antony said.
The Minister was asked if the blacklisting of firms has delayed the modernisation of armed forces and whether there could have been any other way of handling the chopper deal than cancelling it.
The Defence Ministry cancelled the chopper deal on January 1 after allegedly finding AgustaWestland guilty of violating the pre-contract integrity pact.
On the chopper deal, the Minister said, "Who would have thought that there will be malpractices of this kind involved in the process. But we cannot compromise on our laws."
He said the Defence Ministry and the AIF would find an alternative solution for ferrying the VVIPs.
The IAF and the Defence Ministry along with the Prime Minister`s Office, Cabinet Secretariat and other security agencies are going to meet soon to consider the requirements for VVIP choppers and whether to go for new choppers or to upgrade the Mi-17V5s for utilising them for the purpose.
Asked what punishment would be given to former IAF Chief ACM SP Tyagi for his alleged role in the chopper scam, the Defence Minister said this was the job of the courts to do so if anyone is proven guilty.
He said two simultaneous inquiries are going on in the chopper scam in India and Italy.
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