New Delhi: Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has been pulled up by the government auditor Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for its performance in 2017-18 giving an alarming report.
According to the report tabled in Parliament on December 6, the Army and Navy reported at least 36 accidents from 2013-14 to 2017-18 due to “fuse-related defects/problems” in nine types of ammunition that were studied. These included 81 mm high-explosive (HE) mortar bombs, 40 mm HE rounds for L-70 air defence guns, 84 mm ‘illuminating’ munitions for rocket launchers and 125 mm HE shells for T-72 tanks.
Fuses are an essential and critical part of ammunition to provide safe and reliable detonation at the desired time and place. Defective fuses can lead to bursting of barrels as well as accidental and premature explosions. Apart from “inadequate quality checks”, there were “abnormal delays” in completing such “defect investigations”, which stymied “remedial” measures by the factories concerned, the CAG report said.
“Moreover, a significant quantity of the Army’s demands for some principal ammunition items remained outstanding as of March 31, 2018, thus adversely affecting its operational preparedness. The factories achieved production targets for only 49 per cent items in 2017-18,” it said.
“OFB’s slippages in production and supply led to critical deficiency of seven types of ammunition (ranging from 32 to 74 per cent) and five types of spare fuses (41 to 94 per cent) in the users’ stock,” the report said. The Army is the OFB’s biggest client, accounting for almost 80 per cent of its total production worth over Rs 14,000 crore every year.
The CAG report also noted that the “very meagre” exports by OFB further decreased by 39 per cent from Rs 22.6 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 13.9 crore in 2017-18.
The report comes at a time when the government has prepared a draft note for the Cabinet Committee on Security for “corporatisation” of the OFB, which has around 1.45 lakh employees, to “enhance functional autonomy, efficiency and unleash new growth potential”.
The move will help increase OFB’s turnover to Rs 30,000 crore by 2024-25, enhance its exports to 25 per cent of the turnover, and increase self-reliance in technology from the existing 20 to 75 per cent by 2028-29, contends the CCS note.