DELHI: A goods supply to Indian troops serving in UN peace keeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Lebanon have been delayed because of conflicts between the Army, Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the government-owned enterprise Balmer Lawrie, which has handled transportation of supplies in the last two years.
There is a blame game on between Responding to queries, the Army has acknowledged that troops posted in UN missions have been “adversely” affected by late delivery. Internal correspondence accessed by The Indian Express shows that delivery of some sea containers to the Congo and South Sudan have been delayed by almost a year. Damages have been claimed from the transporter in one instance, for the expiry of a huge consignment of medicines.
The container movement traffic for items such as stationery, water tanks, spares, machine tools, paints and medicines is estimated to be around 120 per year containers are also hired to bring back unserviceable stores from UN missions but it is the delayed delivery of stores being carried onward in 44 containers which has put a question mark on the entire delivery mechanism.
Letters written by the Army brass posted in the Directorate of Staff Duties state that delivery to Indian troops should be on door-to-door basis, delivered ideally within a 60-day period. Warning letters by the DG and DDG to the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Shipping went out on September 23 and September 26.
Earlier, the Integrated Finance Division, in a letter to the Army dated September 17, pointed out that the onward agent hired by Balmer Lawrie had “retained containers in his own custody, thereby denying Indian troops the provisions dispatched to them by the Ministry of Defence… as the Indian troops have been without replenishment for last one year, it is requested that Ministry of Shipping be enjoined to make available vessels for shipment of defence cargo to UN mission locations at the earliest.’’
When his comments were sought, Viren Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director of Balmer Lawrie, said they had won the Army contract for shipment of defence stores to Indian troops in UN missions in December 2012. Of the 44 containers, there were minor delays in delivery of 14, and later 16, containers to the Congo, South Sudan and Lebanon, he said.
According to Sinha, this was on account of delayed delivery of Customs Duty Exemption Certificates (CDECs) and the “ongoing war-like situation” in some destinations.
Instance, he said, the delivery of one container marked for Malakal (South Sudan) was stuck because the road had “disappeared”. It was only in November 2013 that permission was given to them to make the delivery in Juba, also in South Sudan, he said, adding that some reached their destination in November.
A real problem, he acknowledged, had occurred in delivery of eight containers — six were to be delivered to Indian troops posted in the Congo (Goma, Kiwanja and Riwindi) and two containers to South Sudan (Malakal).
In a statement, the company said: “Because of inordinate delay in getting the CDECs from the destination countries, we had incurred a very large amount as ground rent, port charges etc, which amounted to Rs 1 crore. We wanted clarity on the payment of these and hence, there was delay. We finally took a call to make a payment to the Mombasa Port Authorities and clear the consignment pending finalisation.”
On the delayed delivery of Army supplies by almost one year, the Army stated that there was a “well laid out procedure through a Board of Officers (BOO) to assess the losses and that vendor will be charged as per Defence Procurement Manual 2009 for the liquidated damage”.
“The vendor was penalised and charged for liquidated damage for delayed delivery,” the Army stated, adding that a rate contract for future supplies to be delivered to troops at UN missions was now in its final stages.