Govt to consider cooling off period for defence

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New Delhi: The government will "seriously" consider a proposal to bar senior officers of defence forces from taking up private job for five years after retirement, the Rajya Sabha was told today against the backdrop of a retired Lt General`s alleged role as a lobbyist.

"This is going on for a long time. Retired officers of the army or bureaucrats work for Indian companies, foreign companies," Defence Minister A K Antony said in reply to questions in the Rajya Sabha. He noted that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has recommended that the cooling off period should be five years from the present one year.

"We will examine that recommendation seriously," he said. He was replying when Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) said a "very disturbing development" had been witnessed as retired army officers of the rank of Lt Generals are becoming lobbyists for companies having questionable track records.

The Standing Committee, in its report tabled in Parliament on Monday, had pointed out that "some of the retired defence officers work with the private sector and act as a middlemen for defence procurement." The committee noted that the prescribed period as per service conditions forbidding Armed Forces officers joining private sector was earlier two years which has now been reduced to one year.

"The committee is of strong view that the aforesaid period need to be increased to five years for the officers of the rank of Brigadier and above, and their equivalents which would certainly help in addressing the issue of blacklisting of technologies. Urgent initiatives in this regard should be taken by the Defence Ministry," the report said.

Taking note of concerns by members, the Defence Minister also informed the House that six firms have been barred from further dealings for 10 years. The decision to debar companies is based on the action taken by Ordnance Factory Board on the recommendations of the CBI for blacklisting them on evidence collected against them for payment of illegal gratification, Antony said.

The blacklisted firms are: Singapore Technologies Kinetics; Israel Military Industries; T S Kisan & Co Pvt Ltd, New Delhi; R K Machine Tools, Ludhiana; Rheinmetall Air Defence, Zurich; and Corporation Defence, Russia. "These companies are blacklisted because they engaged in corrupt practices… All these blacklisted companies are vendors," he said, adding, "We will have no work with these six companies for 10 years."

He said the action was taken after it was found that "there was some kind of compromise in transparency, some corruption, some passage of money between hands." Referring to Isreal Military Industries which was associated with the Nalanda Ordnance Factory, he said it was found that it had "engaged in foul play" and the Rs 200 crore given in advance to it has been fully recovered. "So the interest of the government is protected," he said.

In this context, Antony said the work on the factory suffered delay but assured the House that in the coming months, things would move forward. "We hope this factory will become a reality," he said. To a question related to Unit Run Canteens, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju said the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recommended that the URCs be brought under the Unified Accountability Regime.

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