Army Chief VK Singh appears before PAC

NEW Delhi, January 12 (PTI): 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).
General Singh appeared before the PAC headed by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi at around 11 a.m. 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 Navy 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,” Mr. Naik had said earlier. 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 was too serious to be ignored.