New Delhi: The Ministry of Defence has granted emergency financial powers to Army commanders, corps commanders as well as division or sub-area commanders to expedite procurement related to establishing and running quarantine facilities, among other things, to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Army commanders will have the full financial powers, while corps commanders or area commanders can spend Rs 50 lakh, and division commanders or sub-area commanders can spend Rs 20 lakh on work related to setting up of quarantine facilities in their respective jurisdiction, according to the ministry’s Friday letter addressed to Army chief General M.M. Naravane.
The finances, which would be met from the defence budget, would include augmenting the isolation facilities with items, materials, equipment, stores, ration, hygiene chemicals, among others, as well as provision of other services needed for effective handling of Covid-19 outbreak.
In the letter, the defence ministry said the powers have been delegated for a period of three months from 27 March, and can be revised or extended, if need be.
Powers applicable in cases of military necessity
The ministry’s letter said the emergency powers have been delegated under “Schedule 23 of ASP in DFPDS-2016”.
DFPDS stands for Delegation of Financial Powers to Defence Services and ASP is Army Schedule of Powers.
Schedule 23 of DFPDS-2016 deals with emergency financial powers for procurement of stores, equipment, vehicles, hiring of special services, manpower, machinery or other expenditure connected with exercises or operations.
These powers are applicable in cases of urgent or immediate military necessities relating to military preparedness to meet eventualities such as a war-like situation, natural calamities, etc.
The idea of delegation of these powers is to expedite procurement, repair of equipment, items, material stores and provisioning of services urgently required for a successful operation.
Powers exercised during wars, calamities too
According to Schedule 23, these powers are exercised as and when the government notifies an event through an order declaring war, hostility, natural calamity or disaster or when the defence minister declares and orders military preparedness for emergency or other immediate military necessities.
It will also be applicable as and when a proposal, mooted by the service chiefs, is approved by the defence minister for immediate action to be taken in case of a series of incidents or when the Army is requisitioned for internal security duties.
Procurement powers under various heads vary and are enhanced in consultation with the Integrated Financial Adviser (IFA), who is from the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA).
However, full powers without IFA’s consultation are extended only in emergencies or extraneous circumstances, a senior Army officer said.
Another armed forces officer, meanwhile, told ThePrint that the financial year is coming to an end and it’s unlikely that the forces would have any money left in the military coffers.
He said the grant of emergency financial powers would not mean much on ground unless additional funds are made available to the forces.
These funds, the officer added, could be given from unspent funds of other ministries.
Whenever the military is used for the purpose of helping the civil administration, the expenditure is raised to the central government to reimburse the amount spent in that connection.
This report has been updated to reflect the correct full-form of the abbreviations IFA and CGDA