New Delhi - Stung by criticism that he had prior knowledge of complaints over irregularities in the army ordering Tatra trucks, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Thursday issued a "stern warning" to defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and asked them to keep their dealings with clients and stake-holders "transparent."
Antony conveyed the message to the chiefs of eight DPSUs at a meeting here at South Block to review their performance and functioning, a defence ministry official told reporters here.
"The defence minister issued a stern warning to the DPSUs on their dealings with their clients and stake-holders in the wake of allegations of a bribe offer. The defence minister stressed that there can be no compromise on transparency in their dealings," an official said.
The meeting was held in the backdrop of Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh complaining that a retired officer had offered him a bribe of Rs.14 crore to clear an order for 600-odd Tatra trucks that are manufactured by DPSU Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) under licence from Czech firm Tatra.
The government, after the army chief's revelation, had ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the bribe offer on the basis of a complaint from Gen. Singh.
The chiefs of DPSUs BEML, Hindustan Aeronautics, Bharat Electronics, Bharat Dynamics, Mazagon Docks, Goa Shipyard, Hindustan Shipyard and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers were present at the review meeting, apart from Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju and Defence Production Secretary Shekhar Aggarwal.
"The meeting was part of the series of reviews of the armed forces and the defence ministry's functioning and performance," the officials said.
The defence minister told the DPSUs to ensure timely deliveries of products ordered by the armed forces, maintain high quality and efficient post-sale support that they require.
He also said the DPSUs should set benchmarks for the private sectors in defence production.
Only last week, the parliamentary standing committee on defence had summoned the chiefs of the DPSUs and recorded their depositions on their functioning.
The army chief had stated in media interviews that the trucks for which the bribe was offered were "sub-standard". Since then, there has been overwhelming support for Tatra vehicles from defence ministry officials, BEML chief V.R.S. Natarajan and Defence Research and Development Organisation chief V.K. Saraswat.
The Tatra vehicles, which carry weapons on difficult terrains in which the army troops are deployed, and their performance have been described as "outstanding" by those who defend it.