Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Home Secretary on Wednesday gave a clean chit to Kerala Police and DGP Loknath Behra, days after the CAG report said some rifles and cartridges were missing from the SAPB battalion here and there were irregularities in purchasing material for the department.
Additional Chief Secretary in-charge of Home, Vishwas Mehta, who was asked by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to file a report, gave a clean chit to the police force, saying it was not right to say there was a shortage of live cartridges and INSAS rifles as mentioned in the CAG report.
The CAG had found shortage of 5.56-mm INSAS rifles and 12,061 live cartridges in the Special Armed Police Battalion and had come down on the state police chief for purchasing bullet-proof vehicles for VVIP security, violating guidelines.
The Home secretary, in his report, pointed out that the Crime Branch had on February 17 done a public count of the rifles to demonstrate that none had gone missing.
"There were some lapses in keeping the record on count of the rifles. But it was not right to say that the cartridges and the rifles were missing and and there was a security threat," Mehta said.
The CAG report had said there were lapses on the part of the police department in the purchase of bulletproof vehicles and vehicle-mounted GPS communication system. However, Mehta's report said the bulletproof vehicles cannot be purchased through open tender as, if done so, the blueprint of the vehicles would be out in public domain.
He said the CAG, which normally never mentions names,had named DGP Behra in its report, saying he has instructed police to purchase Panasonic Rugged 7 Tablet for the force. The Home Secretary noted that "naming a particular company was a lapse" on the part of the police department,but Panasonic has 65 per cent of market.
The other two companies, with 13 per cent and 16 per cent market share, lack service centres in the country,he said.
Briefing reporters on the CAG findings,Accountant General (General and Social Sector Audit) S Sunil Raj had said that a joint verification on October 16, 2018, in the Bell-of-Arms of SAPB, along with the Assistant Commandant, revealed shortage of 25 5.56-mm INSAS rifles and 12,061 live cartridges.
Meanwhile, the Crime Branch has assigned a special team to probe the disappearance of bullets meant for the police forces. The Home Secretary also dismissed the CAG charge of state-run Keltron floating open tenders for special orders, including traffic cameras.
The report noted that Keltron was a "total solutions provider" for many Public Sector Undertakings and the police force. The Opposition Congress, however, rejected the report and said it seemed like the Chief Minister had dictated it to the secretary.
"It's the home secretary who approves all the purchases in the police department. The same home secretary has given this report, whitewashing the DGP. He is trying to save the government. Crime Branch ADGP Tomin Thachankary is also trying to bat for the government. The CAG had found that the rifles were missing. Now Thachankary is saying that all the rifles are in place. So who where were those rifles? Who brought it back now?", Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala asked.
The LoP ed a delegation of opposition leaders to the location where construction is on for the purpose of accommodation for DGP and other senior officials.
The CAG had alleged that Behera diverted Rs 2.81 crore meant for construction of upper subordinate staff quarters for construction of villas for high-ranking officials.