army’s attempt to replace its 1990s vintage imagery interpretation systems that one officer terms “junk”. The blocked procurement pipeline is believed to now include a requirement for over 40 such systems, a glaring capability gap that has been repeatedly flagged by army commanders in internal conferences.
One reason being given for the Col’s slow progress is the fact that Lt General Thakur, Major General Asija simply refused to join the probe. This left the court with no option but to issue arrest warrants against them. The warrants are with the district magistrates in Gurgaon and Noida where the two officers live after their retirement. The officers have so far refused to respond to the Col which was reconvened on June 23. Army officers say a fresh set of arrest warrants will now be served on them.
PAST IMPERFECT This is not Rolta’s first brush with controversy. In an April 2015 report, a California-based capital markets research firm, Glaucus Research Group, noted that “preponderance of evidence suggests that the vast majority of Rolta’s reported capital expenditures have been fabricated”. The report was an assessment of $500 million of junk bonds issued in the US market by Rolta’s Delaware subsidiary between 2013 and 2014 which had attracted inves- »- tors by offering tempting yields.
The group said that the IT firm’s reported spending in India was “disappearing into phantom prototypes, mysterious construction projects and computer systems of questionable authenticity and utility”.
It also flagged the fact that an ongoing Ministry of Defence inquiry had been omitted from its bond prospectuses, “which in our view is a material omission because the scandal could jeopardise future contracts with the Indian government. These incidents are further evidence of the lack of transparency or accountability at Rolta. ” Rolta has contested Glaucus’ findings, terming them “baseless”,
riddled with “factual errors” and “inaccuracies”. It referred to news reports cited by Glaucus of the defence ministry inquiry as making no express allegation or conclusion against the company or its officials. Accordingly, it is just an attempt to falsely imply the company’s complicity and impact its reputation, Rolta claimed.
The Col has photographs that show Colonel Chakraborty, director MI-17 and Colonel Banerjee’s boss, on a private holiday with Rolta executives in 2009. Colonel Chakraborty did not return calls for comment.
Preliminary findings of the army Col seem to agree with what the MI
|MI-17 DIRECTOR COLONEL M.K. CHAKRABORTY WITH ROLTA EXECUTIVES ON A HOLIDAY IN THAILAND, IN 2009
whistleblowers had said in their written complaints since 2011. The Col established contractual and financial discrepancies in the annual maintenance contracts concluded with Rolta after December 2008. Original contracts with Intergraph and Bentley and other third party software updates and upgrades were not provided by Rolta despite the mandate for the supplier in the original contract. Rolta merged the costs of hardware and software in 2008, making it difficult for the army to work out the loss to the exchequer due to the denial of software upgrades, officials familiar
with the Col say.
Company officials, however, strongly denied these findings. “Rolta has been providing comprehensive maintenance services to the Indian Army for two decades now and army users are completely satisfied with these services. There are no contractual and financial discrepancies in any annual maintenance contract with Rolta. In fact, army users have issued hundreds of letters appreciating Rolta support services,” a company spokesperson said.
Rolta refutes it had withheld any deliverable that had been contracted for, a constant charge made by several army whistleblowers. “Rolta provides comprehensive maintenance services for integrated systems, as contracted,” the spokesperson told india today in a written response. “Rolta has met and exceeded all its contractual commitments, including supply of all software updates and upgrades. We categorically deny that Rolta has withheld or not provided any deliverable that has been contracted for.”
Responding to charges that it had pushed its software onto the Indian Army in the absence of competition from other software developers, the company spokesperson said that Rolta had followed due process in obtaining all required sanctions, its software had been tested by army users before induction by conducting an extensive predispatch inspection and a joint receipt inspection, as per contractual provisions. “This software has been in sustained use at army formations for the last six-plus years and the company has received numerous appreciation letters from army user sites all over the country, which stand testimony to the quality of Rolta software and support services.”
As the court of inquiry hurtles towards a long-awaited conclusion, the embattled whistleblowers in Military Intelligence hope to have proved them wrong.