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New spending system irks officers in Defence Ministry

Bureaucrats, armed forces now have to get all expenditures approved first.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni | New Delhi |
June 6, 2015 1:15:10 am

The Defence Ministry’s directive that bureaucrats and armed forces officers must get clearance from Integrated Financial Advisers (IFA) for any expenditure — no matter how small — has led to a furore among officials.

With certain defence procurements getting delayed since the decision, officials said such delays could become routine.

The financial powers to officials were last revised by the ministry in 2006, when the system of IFAs was introduced to manage financial approvals on a macro level. This was meant to ensure “value for money” while making defence acquisitions and small purchases. All IFAs report to the MoD finance division.

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Now, in a bid to “strengthen the IFA”, the ministry has decided to increase the number of such advisers, and place them at the lowest level in military establishments. The Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) has been given this responsibility.

“The existing IFA structure will be strengthened from the service availability and service delivery concept,” the order said.

But officials claim that under the new system, getting approvals will become a lengthier process. “Now I will have to route each expenditure through the IFA. This will create a lengthy process. Doesn’t the ministry trust us?” an MoD official said.

The decision could also affect local Army units and formations. For instance, a Western Command Hospital recently put up this message on its notice board: “The new system will lead to delays as there is no discretionary finance power left with the commanding officer of the hospital for making purchases for day-to-day requirements of patients. Till the new system stabilises, all patients, including veterans, are requested to bear with any deficiency in service that is bound to arise due to the sudden withdrawal of independent financial powers of the commanding officer of the hospital.”

The ministry document also made a mention of some of the shortcomings of the existing system. It observed that “at many lower formations, there has been no provision/placement of dedicated IFAs, which is resulting in delays in decision making, thus adversely affecting the intended objectives of defence preparedness”.

It further stated: “What has further affected the set up is shortage of officers and staff at the Command and Services headquarters…This is a potential risk area and needs urgent attention.”

Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar did not respond to an email sent on May 27.

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