LONDON: India’s national auditor has slammed the country’s army for turning large tracts of state military property into illegal privately run golf courses and leisure centres without paying rent to the government, costing the exchequer millions of dollars in lost revenue, says a report in ‘The Financial Times’.The damning audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which has already exposed $39 bn of irregularities in the telecoms sector, adds to the pressure on the Congress party-led government of prime minister Manmohan Singh.His administration is already mired in scandals over the Commonwealth Games, cash for votes and a land scam involving military top brass.
The paper said the allegations will come as a huge embarrassment for the Indian military, which has been viewed as professional and honest.
The CAG said a privately held company controlled by army officials ran 97 golf courses on more than 8,000 acres of land owned by the Ministry of Defence, the biggest government landowner.It also revealed that army commanders had procured 27 golf carts two years ago by passing them off as mechanised wheelchairs for military hospitals and as track alignment reconnaissance vehicles for sapper units.The private clubs, similar to those run by the British in the colonial era, were open to military personnel as well as to Indians and foreign nationals, for an annual membership fee.“Revenue generated was not credited to government accounts and was presumed credited to regimental funds,” the report said. It also found that the army leased its facilities for private parties and weddings.The CAG said it could not give an exact figure for the amount of money lost by the exchequer as it did not have full access to all the documentation. However, the audit clearly suggested that losses ran to several million dollars. – APP