NTRO nailed: CAG confirms gross irregularities

Whistleblower's complaints, RTI queries leads to disclosures about procurement, recruitment


Prasanna Mohanty | March 5, 2012

Illustration: Ashish Asthana
Illustration: Ashish Asthana

If you wonder why our premier technical intelligence gathering agency, the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which was set up after the Kargil fiasco, has failed to take off and is in the news for all the wrong reasons – tapping phones of politicians and buying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) worth Rs 450 crore which is now lying as junk ¬– here is an official explanation.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has, for the first time, confirmed through two RTI replies what has always been widely known – that the NTRO is plagued by gross irregularities of all kinds in two crucial areas: (a) procurement of intelligence gathering equipment and (b) recruitment of staff.

The CAG has said: “We have noticed cases of appointment of ineligible candidates and lack of transparency in recruitment of regular employees of the NTRO.”

It also says: “We have noticed lack of transparency and non-compliance of rules and procedures in procurement of systems/stores/equipments and deficient procurement management resulting in cases of excess payment/wasteful expenditure/loss to exchequer”.

The damning revelations comes through two RTI applications filed by a whistleblower, VK Mittal, former joint secretary-level official who had to take premature retirement because his continuation became untenable after he started objecting to irregularities in procurements and recruitment.

There is another first to it. It was after Mittal’s complaints that the CAG was asked to carry out a “special audit” of NTRO, a first for any intelligence agency in the country.

The audit report was submitted to the national security advisor in February 2011 but it is yet to be made public or even submitted to the apex court where a PIL filed by Mittal is pending.

Mittal had complained that gross irregularities had been committed in buying crucial equipment like UAVs, in terms of inappropriate technologies leading to compromise in security and advance payment by violating the laid down procedures. These equipments are now a waste. Similarly, he had also pointed out how nepotism led to recruitment of staff – from joint secretary level down to the peons – unfit for the intelligence agency.

A direct fallout of the CAG’s first look into the NTRO’s affairs also led it to seek an audit of the accounts of premier external intelligence agency, RAW. The PMO has asked the CAG to look into RAW’s account after a meeting was held between the CAG, PMO and RAW a few weeks ago.
As per this direction, RAW’s internal audit report will be submitted to the CAG, along with an action taken report (ATR).

Interestingly, CAG has said in its RTI reply to Mittal that neither NTRO nor NSA has so far submitted an ATR in connection with the irregularities pointed out in its “special audit”. The relevant reply says: “As mentioned above, this office (CAG) has not received any information on action taken by NTRO/NSA on the special audit report”.



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