I would like to once again raise the much talked about issue regarding the award of two army contracts that is believed to be mired in corruption and abuse by the winning bidder, working in cohorts with certain individuals that has influence in supporting the bidder win the contract. The contracts in question are the supply of Ballistic Helmets (BH), and Bullet Resistance Vest (BRV) for the army. I had in an earlier posting questioned the rational of why does army need 30,000 pieces of BRV; an amount that I think is nonsensical. I had also talked about the defective BH supplied by the contractor, but yet it was deemed acceptable by army. The latter issue is well exposed in public domain.
As far as I know, and having been a staff in the Trial & Development Wing of PULADA at two different periods, I am aware that there are stringent international rules governing the issuance and approval of safety equipments to members of the Security Forces; and both BH and BRV are categorized as safety equipments. I believe too that local companies that are suppliers or manufacturers of such equipments must be in possession of a police permit to deal in both these equipments. I am told too that the plates used in the BRV are restricted items requiring police and import permits.
The recognized international body that governs the issuance of approval for security related equipments for use by the world’s Security Forces is the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is a research and development agency of the US Department of Justice. The NIJ issues the classification and categorization of various equipments depending on its level of resistance, purpose etc. If NIJ is the authority, then what has the army trial team got to do with the trials of such equipments, or is the army trial team superior to NIJ? I would like to know the nature and level of tests that they conduct, and whether the team members are technically proficient in conducting such trials. What army should have done was to verify the source and manufacturer of the equipment (be it imported or local manufactured), and whether the equipment has the prerequisite NIJ classification and categorization. Verification status can be easily accessible via internet.
I am told that there is an existing government policy that gives preference to locally manufactured products, and that the company has ready been manufacturing such products either for exports or for domestic use. In the above two issues, the company that was awarded the contract is believed to neither have the manufacturing facility, nor has been manufacturing such equipments for exports or for domestic use. But yet, I am told that there is already a local company that is manufacturing the BRV with export capability, and yet the company failed the army’s test. If it is true that the winning bidder does not have a ready manufacturing capability, than one can assume that the equipment that was presented for trials has been brought in from a foreign manufacturer, without verifying the NIJ status of the manufacturer itself. What is even worse is that neither has all other bidders who have failed in their bid, be given access to the trial reports conducted locally, which in itself can be a source of abuse and manipulation by the trial team, and I believe this happens most of the time. Now, where is the transparency that one talks about? This has been the general complaint by bidders, with some having lost the desire and confidence to do any further tender dealing with Mindef.
I am still puzzled as to how the two contracts were awarded out, and I do hope someone from within Mindef itself will be bold enough to open up an investigation into these two tender awards. Will the new army leadership that is scheduled to take over the reins of the Army in the next few days be willing to do this? I hope they do.
Let us all take a cue from the submarine deal where the case of kickbacks is still open to investigation by the French government.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION