Years after the CAG tore into DRDO and its functioning, a special audit has once again exposed the organisation and its chief, VK Saraswat, blaming him for passing on funds to a society in a clear case of conflict of interest.
The audit, conducted on the orders of defence minister AK Antony, has come down on the ‘arbitrary’ functioning of the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation).
The audit has highlighted questionable approval by scientific advisor to defence minister, Saraswat, of grant- in-aid of Rs2.9 crore to an academic institution he heads.
According to the report, accessed by the DNA, Saraswat sanctioned a grant of Rs2.88 crore to Hyderabad-based Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (AIMCS) for research of futuristic radar systems.
Raising infirmities in the sanction, the audit report says, “AIMCS comprises scientists known for their achievement in mathematics, statistics and computer sciences and is not even generally connected with research relating to futuristic radars. And it (AIMCS) does not have any equipment and other wherewithal to undertake such research and development.”
The report says DRDO’s Bangalore-based LRDE (Electronics and Radar Development Establishment) is specifically meant for the evolution of the technologies relating to radars and has required number of scientists and equipment for conducting research of radars.
“It was thus strange to entrust this work to a Hyderabad-based academic institute. Further scrutiny has revealed as the grantee body did not have expert manpower, it started recruiting them after getting money from DRDO, which was liberally disbursed on annual basis.”
The report claims that release of advance payment to the society even for salary in respect of non-existent manpower blocks government funds and provides an opportunity to private society to earn ‘interest income’.
“DRDO is hiring a consultant and the consultant is also planning to hire consultants. This does not seem to be reasonable. Whether recruited personnel had DRDO connection needs to be seen further.”
The internal audit report prepared by senior additional controller general of defence account (ACGDA-Internal audit) maintained that DRDO has undertaken research project relating to radars and part of this research project was offloaded to a private society.
“As such it is only a sub-project of a main project. These facts were not however brought out in the file concerned.”
Interestingly, the report has also questioned another grant-in-aid of Rs3 crore to Dr SB Rao of the same institute, who is co-principal investigator under this radar research project. “A comparison of cost estimates between two projects suggested the possibility of different norms being adopted for costing and possible duplication.”