DNA Exclusive: CAG nails NTRO; NSA sits on report
By Saikat Datta | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA
An aggressive audit of the country’s premier technical spying agency, the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), by the CAG — the first time an intelligence agency has been audited — has revealed large-scale irregularities, corruption and several instances of official position/s being misused.
The report is unlikely to be made public or even placed before Parliament, but is bound to raise questions on National Security Adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon’s role as he has not taken any action on the report for months. The NTRO does not come under any ministry and it reports directly to the NSA.
India is one of the few democracies where Parliament has no supervisory control over intelligence agencies. The report comes at a time when there is tremendous churning within the intelligence community with calls for greater accountability and transparency.
The CAG summarised its findings while replying to former NTRO joint secretary VK Mittal’s query under RTI seeking details of the audit. It says the CAG has “noticed cases of appointment of ineligible candidates” confirming fears that the agency has been flouting rules while recruiting senior people.
A source told DNA that this has resulted in people being recruited based on their “connections” rather than merit. In fact, IPS officer Jaijeet Singh (Maharashtra cadre) who joined the NTRO last year is probing such cases. So far, five people — either of the rank of joint secretary or director — are under the scanner. The “illegal recruits” include Commander Manoj Modi from the navy, LtCol Sachin Burman, part of the cyber-espionage team, Pramod Prasad, Ruchichandra Srivastava and HS Dhillon.
The CAG found that contractual appointments of senior officers were not transparent. Financial rules were flouted while recruiting Brigadier Anil Malhotra on contract. Malhotra dealt with counter-intelligence and internal security.
The report also talks of several senior officers “misusing” their positions. Chief among them is MS Vijaraghavan, currently the second-in-command in the NTRO.
The fact that he used a prime property in New Delhi’s posh Hauz Khas enclave as his personal residence — rent bills ran into lakhs — left the organisation embarrassed. The CAG recorded several instances of “misuse of official power”, many being committed by Vijayraghavan. Despite all this, he still holds a sensitive post because the government has chosen to ignore the charges against him.
PV Kumar, the present NTRO chairman, too investigated the mess and sent his report to the NSA, Menon. But he has been sitting on both reports for months. And the picture is unlikely to change because neither report would be tabled in Parliament. The reason: the reports are confidential.
The CAG said in an earlier reply, November 28, 2011, under RTI that neither the NTRO nor the NSA has sent any “action-taken” report. DNA has learnt that the CAG has found at least 143 instances of illegal recruitments. It has also found “non-compliance of rules” in procurement of systems and equipment. This means kickbacks could have been part of the several purchases made by NTRO.
The NTRO was set up after the Kargil war to coordinate all technical intelligence efforts. But the organisation has failed to take off because of nepotism and corruption. Even Union home minister P Chidamabaram refused to include the agency in his daily intelligence briefings. The home ministry recently denied it the status of a notified agency that could legally intercept phones and emails of the people of the country.