In a first instance of its kind, Army Chief V K Singh on Wednesday appeared before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in connection with alleged irregularities in the canteen stores supplies.
The PAC had called the chiefs of the three defence services for a hearing after a CAG report pointed out irregularities in the supply chain management of rations by Canteen Stores Department (CSD).
Singh appeared before the PAC headed by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi at around 11 AM and senior Army officials made a presentation of management of rations in the Army.
Air Chief P V Naik is likely to appear before the Committee later in the day.
The Navy would be represented by Vice Chief D K Deewan, as chief Nirmal Verma is in Indonesia on a “pre-scheduled” four-day visit which began on Sunday.
The armed forces have decided to stick to their stand that their Unit Run Canteens (URC) are beyond the purview of the PAC.
“We still maintain that URC is beyond their purview. That is the basic issue on which I presume the hearing or questioning will take place. We have given our replies to them and let us see how it goes tomorrow,” Naik told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday.
The Army chief had already made it clear that he would be appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Wednesday.
“We have no problem in appearing before the PAC. We are following the directives of the Defence Ministry. I will appear before the PAC on January 12,” Singh had said.
“We all must remember one thing that we all are subject to Parliament. That is the system of our governance. Nobody is exempt,” Air chief Naik said.
The PAC had called the chiefs of the three defence services for a hearing on Wednesday based on a CAG report which has pointed out irregularities in the supply chain management of rations by CSD.
The Defence Ministry, which received the communication, advised the service chiefs to appear before the PAC apparently to underline the committee’s immense significance at a time when the government is seeking to project it as a body as important as the Joint Parliamentary Committee following Opposition demand for JPC into 2G spectrum issue.
Usually the Defence Secretary attends meetings of the Parliamentary Committees along with Vice Chiefs of the Services.
Highlighting the irregularities in the Canteen Stores Department, the CAG had said, “The existing procedure for provisioning of dry rations failed to assess the requirement realistically. The failure was mainly due to systemic deficiencies due to which different quantities were worked out at different echelons applying different parameters….”
The report had said that the risk of existence of “cartels” affecting the quantity and quality of rations is too serious to be ignored.