A committee set up by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is investigating around 250 firms that impart resettlement training to retired defence personnel after an internal finance unit alleged “massive financial irregularity” in the scheme costing around Rs 20 crore every year.
The committee, which was formed last month to investigate the allegation raised by the ministry’s Integrated Finance division, found during site inspections that some institutes in New Delhi and Ghaziabad could not be located or did not have the required infrastructure or affiliations.
The training scheme comes under the ministry’s Directorate General of Resettlement (DGR). Earlier, a preliminary inspection conducted by the division found that several institutes that impart such training have provided no official information in the public domain, including details of websites and emails.
Defence ministry data shows that while Rs 70.36 crore was spent on such training between 2011-2014, Rs 53 crore had been earmarked for 2015-2017.
When contacted, Prabhu Dayal Meena, Secretary (Ex-Servicemen Welfare), Ministry of Defence, told The Indian Express, “When we received complaints from Defence Finance, we set up a committee. Spot inspection of training institutes is on and it is a little premature to give a final picture.”
The training programme includes courses ranging from modular management, fire protection to dairy farming and vehicle repair. According to figures, 82,270 personnel have been imparted such training in the last three years.
The alleged irregularity was first raised by Savitur Prasad, Principal Integrated Financial Advisor (PIFA), who pointed out in a letter dated March 11, 2016, that the training fund was being spent without sanction from the office of the Integrated Financial Advisor (IFA).
“The training aspect does not come under the category of ‘immediate operational need’ and as such require IFA concurrence. The conduct and participation of training and workshops have been linked with the ‘austerity measures’ prescribed by the Ministry of Finance and inherent powers are not to be extended to the Director General (Resettlement),” Prasad wrote in the letter.
The official also pointed to alleged misuse of selection guidelines, which state that only training institutes run/approved by central/ state governments/ PSUs, etc., should be used.
“Private societies/ Trusts/Private training institutes (companies/firms) have been added in violation of Government rules. In fact, the affiliation condition has been relaxed from mandatory to ‘preferably.’ The implication of the above changes is devastating. Ineligible and incompetent entities have been selected, who neither have address nor any verifiable details on website/web-portal or any information about their training imparting capabilities,’’ the letter states.
Describing the process as a “system failure at various stage”, the PIFA has recommended that in cases of institutes running fraudulent activities, the loss to the exchequer should be recovered and the cost of Rs 98.86 crore for the past five or six years investigated in detail. He has also called for an investigation by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
The alarm raised by the PIFA was followed up by a letter dated April 11, 2016, from the Additional Controller General of Defence Accounts, Atul Kumar Saxena, who questioned why sanction letters were not issued in each case by the Director General (Resettlement).
In the letter, Saxena also sought to know whether training outfits were located through a process of transparent competitive tender inquiries or were allocated training assignments on a nomination basis.
“If training assignments were awarded on nomination basis, the due diligence carried out by the DGR and its subordinate offices for ascertaining the credentials of the training institute may please be furnished,” Saxena wrote in the letter.