The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered a case against eight officials of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The cases registered by the CBI against the employees of HAL are based on corruption charges. CBI took over the case after an internal audit in the PSU revealed that officials of the HAL had made fraudulent payments, in upwards of Rs 5 crores, to contractors, based on forged bills, a clear misappropriation of funds by the company.
The internal audit had revealed that a sum of Rs 5 crore had been paid to contractors between January and August 2018 by forging bills. The state-owned company had been in headlines recently, in connection with Anil Ambani’s Reliance group getting preference over HAL when it came to choosing an offset partner for the Dassault Aviation in the Rafale Deal. Congress, the main opposition party in the country had accused PM Modi led central government, of intervening in the talks between the companies and getting HAL sidelined in the Rafale deal.
The internal audit report reveals that forged bills and other manipulations had resulted in fraudulent payments made in the months of February, March, June, July and August this year. The report also mentions that a thorough investigation and a voucher check was also underway in HAL, to ascertain the true scamsters and the extent of damage they did to the company. The internal report mentions Abinash Kumar Sarkar, an official in HAL and his wife Shubhashree Das as the primary suspects in the corruption case. The internal report points at irregularities in bills payable section of the Engine Division of the plant in Koraput, Odisha.
The case filed by the CBI mentions the names of various other suspects such as Bhaben Mitra, Abinash Kumar Sarkar, Subhashree Das, Jayaram Garada among those involved in the corrupt practice. This exposes the officials associated with the PSU who had been involved at multiple levels in causing harm to the company and to national interest in the larger context. The CBI investigation might also expose several other discrepancies in the management of the company.
The undertaking has recently been in news even as the ardent supporters of the PSU culture have been arguing that the Rafale deal should have involved HAL instead of Ambani led Reliance Defense Limited. However, if one were to take a close look at the situation, HAL appears incompetent and an under performing organization. Controversy had erupted when Dassault chose Reliance Defense, as its major domestic partner instead of HAL in Rafale Deal. Despite the repeated clarification from the Dassault Aviation and Ministry of Defense about government having no role in selection of the offset partner. The opposition blamed Modi government for corruption. Some sections of the media also misled people about Rafale deal and presented it like a scam, despite the fact that no beneficiary of the deal could be found in government.
Out of an obsession for a PSU controlled economy, the government established HAL as the main defense manufacturer of the country with significant amount of resources put into it. However, it is flummoxing that despite decades of its existence, HAL has not been able to achieve anything commendable in its entire history. HAL and other PSUs need a complete overhaul and a thorough CBI inquiry will expose the inefficiency and corruption prevailing in such institutions.