The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


Unveiling the Cloak of Secrecy in the Defence Sector

Posted in NTS Plus by NTSblog on March 22, 2013
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On January 2013, Transparency International (TI) released the first ever global analysis of corruption in the defence sector. Known as the Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index, it analyses what 82 countries do to reduce corruption risks. The analysis reveals that 70 per cent of countries lack the tools to prevent corruption in the defence sector; 45 per cent has little or no oversight of defence policy; half of the countries assessed have minimal evidence of scrutiny of defence procurement and lacks transparency in their defence budgets. In all, the global cost of corruption in the defence sector is estimated to be a minimum of USD20 billion per year.
India, which was ranked by TI in the High Risk category, offers an interesting case study of how, in a fully functioning democratic country, the defence sector remained the domain of a handful of political and military elites and how corruption in arms procurement eroded people’s faith in them and the country’s military preparedness. India is now the world’s largest importer of conventional weapons. Its share of global arms imports reached 10 per cent during 2007-2011 and it increased to 12 per cent during 2008-2012. However, increasing imports of weapon systems has not been matched by institutional oversight allowing individuals to benefit from it. The scandal over the purchase of 400 artillery from Sweden in the 1980s was considered a watershed moment as it involve those from India’s highest political office and it led to the electoral defeat of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress Party in 1989. In March 2001, news portal Tehelka’s“Operation West End” exposed corruption’s pervasiveness among India’s military and political elites and the nexus that existed between them and arms dealers known as ‘middlemen’.

India will continue to spend huge amount of money on arms acquisition. Indeed, as part of its modernisation plans, the country is expected to spend more than USD100 billion on weapon systems over the next 15 years. By 2015, India would have spent USD43 billion on “one of the largest procurement cycles in the world.” The scale of defense spending makes the scope for kickbacks considerable, and increases the need for vigilance against corruption.This calls for more transparency and accountability through, for example, improving public access to information about defence budgets and procurement. Also, law-makers should have stronger controls and oversight, and the tools with which to cut down corruption. Putting stronger measures in place would not only improve India’s security but it will also save the country billions of dollars.

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