Embarrassed DRDO Lambasts TV Report

On August 13, television news station CNN-IBN aired a story (text and video) titled 'DRDO spending crores, but no positive outcome' on an internal government audit that had made troubling observations about the DRDO's conduct and the manner in which it was going about ramping up weapons self-reliance in the country.

Saw the story? Ok. Five days after the story went on air, DRDO issued a statement to the entire media, responding to the CNN-IBN TV report. I'm putting that response here in full. My take: It's full of unnecessary platitudes, typically diversionary irrelevancies, insinuations that the TV station is working for arms dealers and an expected sentimentality on indigenous development. I wonder why the DRDO has such a problem dealing with the report head-on. Over 14 points, it just barely touches upon the substance of the audit report, and that too to say they are not final, and can still be struck down. Here it is in full, verbatim:

1. DRDO’s response to reports in certain section of media about an internal audit report pertaining to Ministry of Defence, leaked out to them (as claimed by these media reps)

2. The report referred is a confidential document pertaining to the MoD. It is not understood how the contents have reached public domain in total violation of laid down orders on handling of such documents. Response to the audit authorities by DRDO is being similarly rendered under confidential classification only.

3. The original objective of the internal audit was to conduct an internal review of the wings of the MoD namely, Army, Navy, Air Force , Ordnance factories and DRDO.

4. Since laid down procedure was not followed and the report was issued without authorization, the matter is under examination and correspondence with the concerned authorities.

5. As already indicated, notwithstanding the fact that the report was vitiated by a faulty audit process, DRDO is recording its responses.

6. However, for the sake of clarity it is stated that the issues raised are essentially in the nature of preliminary observations which, in accordance with the laid down audit procedure, are required to be discussed with executive authorities during formal entry and exit meetings before compilation of audit report. Normally, the internal audit observations are settled by clarifications from the concerned department. Such preliminary observations are required to be formally issued and replies to the same should be sought prior to compilation of any report. Only if the replies are not satisfactory is the next step of making a preliminary report taken. In the extant case, the laid down procedure was not followed and to that extent, the process of audit stands vitiated. Thus, even before seeking replies of DRDO, presumption and baseless conclusions appear to have been arrived at.

7. The draft report, as per procedure, is also required to be submitted to the competent (audit) authority for its approval before it is issued to the executive authorities. This also does not appear to have been done.

8. The observations are apparently based on individual perceptions and hasty presumptions rather than facts and are a curious mix of fact and fiction issued without seeking the formal replies of the executive authorities. In several instances, the statements have taken the shape of undue criticism and derogatory remarks.

9. DRDO strongly refutes observations made in the report and is in the process of compiling its responses despite the fact that the findings of audit already stand vitiated. The replies to audit will be sent in due course as per procedure.

10. All laid down procedures are being followed by DRDO in a transparent manner and interests of the State are the sole consideration during the process of decision making.

11. DRDO is committed to the cause of indigenous development of state of the art weapon systems for the Indian Armed Forces with total focus on transparency, probity and accountability.

12. Unfortunately, the perverse campaign has been launched at a juncture when DRDO is making rapid strides into high end defence technologies and indigenously churning out one after another, contemporary weapon systems and equipment, sharply reducing the dependence on imports, the efforts have helped India to raise the level of indigenous content in meeting its requirements of defence systems to around 60%; the figures are rising steadily. Thus, anyone can easily guess, who will be the beneficiary’s this campaign and who is going to loose. Not only the manner in which the audit has been conducted but also the manner in which sensitive information pertaining to India’s Defence Research Programs has been leaked out is unfortunate.

14. It need be borne in mind that R&D projects involving development of complex system such as missiles, combat aircrafts, battle tanks etc, as well as those involving development of newer technologies, require a large number of experiments and iteration before success is achieved. It involves handling uncertainties and as such predicting the exact number of iteration is not feasible. Allowing flexibility in the system and confidence in the project team are essential to achieve success.

For the story on that image above, go here.

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