While Asia sees burgeoning military spending, the expansion in might is often accompanied by secrecy and absence of accountability, oversight, and transparency, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) has found in its latest report on defence transparency for the Asia Pacific region.
Out of the 17 countries assessed in the Government Defence Index-2015, including major arms importers such as India and China, six have been rated being at either a “very high” or “critical” risk of defence corruption.
India has been awarded a ‘D’ category indicating high vulnerability to corruption in defence deals. While New Zealand tops the list due to several checks and balances, India stands at the eighth position.
India’s neighbours have also fared poorly as China stands below India at the 12th position, Pakistan at 13th and Sri Lanka at 14th. Bangladesh, however, scores a position better than India.
The index observes that while New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea are at top positions due to strong institutional controls, big spender China accounts for nearly 30 per cent of the world’s most secretive spending.
For India, the second biggest spender in the region, the report maintains that while institutional structure is available to check corruption in defence deals with independent agencies such as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Controller and Auditor General (CAG), weak institutional framework fordefence procurement remained a major gap.
“But despite the right systems in place, oversight of defence institutions is still weak. CAG reporting is often too slow to have impact, while the PAC confines scrutiny to Action Taken Notes submitted by the Ministry of Defence itself. The PAC is also hindered by the power of the executive to simply reject recommendations, while internal audit, despite its elaborate mechanisms, lacks the independence and resources to be genuinely effective. The quality of oversight is weakened by the absence of a coherent defence policy to form the basis of scrutiny,” the report observes.
“India is the only democracy with no provisions for legislative oversight of its intelligence agencies, and there is virtually no parliamentary scrutiny of ‘secret’ spending i.e. spending related to intelligence agencies and national security. This has led to low public accountability of defence institutions in India,” said Ashutosh Kumar Mishra, executive director of TI’s India chapter.