12,000 Live Cartridges, 25 Rifles ‘Missing’ From Kerala Police
Around 12,000 live cartridges and 25 rifles are missing from the Kerala police, a Comptroller and Audit General (CAG) report reveals.
The joint verification conducted by Audit in the Bell-of-Arms of Special Armed Police Battalion along with the Assistant Commandant revealed a shortage of 25 5.56-mm INSAS rifles and 12,061 live cartridges.
“Audit noticed that the Stock Register and related records of arms and ammunitions in the Special Armed Police Battalion, Thiruvananthapuram (SAPB), were not properly maintained. The entries in the Stock Registers had many over writings, use of white correction fluid and striking off of entries, etc,” S Sunil Raj, IA & AS, Accountant General (General & Social Sector Audit), said.
“The entries and corrections were not properly authenticated. The Audit could not find any evidence of the conduct of periodical physical verification by higher officers from the records available at SAPB. Audit, therefore, conducted (16 October 2018) a test-check including joint physical verification in the SAPB, to assess whether the physical stock of arms and ammunitions agreed with the stock registers and whether the system of accounting of arms and ammunitions was robust and reliable,” he added.
In 2004, an executive directive issued by the Director-General of Police had detailed the steps to be taken by the police department on security, maintenance, cleaning, and repairs of arms and ammunition.
The directions included instructions to officers who were in charge of arms and ammunition to check the arms and ammunitions in their charge at least once a week and make an entry in the register maintained for the purpose, regarding the correctness of arms and ammunitions kept in the store.
It was also instructed that the Company Commander/Circle Inspector should conduct surprise physical verification of stocks of Arms and Ammunition once a month and make a record of it in the register maintained for the purpose.
And the Superintendent of Police/Commandant should check the arms and ammunition once in every six months and ensure that all is in order.
Senior police officers visiting the camps/police stations were also entrusted to physically verify the arms and ammunition in stock, the quantity received, issued and incorporate the same in their Inspection Reports.
However, CAG states that it observed from the following instances that the police department was aware of the shortage in ammunition and attempted to cover up the shortfall instead of identifying and taking action against the culprits responsible for the loss of ammunition.
According to the CAG official, the Audit also noticed that the shortage of 250 9-mm Drill Cartridges was sought to be covered up by replacing the same with 250 dummy cartridges.
“There was no document on record to show how these dummy cartridges came into the possession of the SAPB and how these were taken into stock. The Commandant, SAPB offered no explanation to Audit on how the 250 unauthorised dummy cartridges came into their possession,” he added.
The report also reveals that Audit noticed a shortage of 7.62-mm bullets was known as early as on 14 September 2015 when the Officer Commanding, B Company of SAPB reported a shortage of 200 7.62-mm bullets which were allotted for the conduct of Long Range Firing at Kerala Police Academy, Thrissur.
“A Board, constituted by the Commandant, SAPB (19 September 2015) to conduct verification of all ammunitions in SAPB, reported a shortage of an additional 200 Nos. 7.62mm bullets in another box that was to contain 600 bullets. However, the Board justified the shortage by observing that since the ammunition was being supplied from the Police Chief Stores, Thiruvananthapuram, the stock was recorded based on the specification denoted on the sealed boxes,” the report reveals.
According to the CAG official, since periodical inspection of the stock of ammunition was also conducted without opening the sealed box, it was concluded that the shortage must have occurred while the bullets were packed at the Ordinance Factory Board (OFB) for dispatching to the Police Chief Stores.
The Board reported no other discrepancies in stock.
However, the Police Chief Stores contradicted the conclusions arrived at by the Board constituted by the Commandant, SAPB and intimated the SPC (June 2016) that the two boxes having the lot numbers/years specified by the Board, were neither received by them from any of the Ordnance factories nor issued by them to SAPB.
Based on this report, the SPC ordered (August 2016) the Additional Director General of Police (Armed Police Battalion) to conduct a comprehensive verification of stock of 7.62-mm M80 SLR rounds. Accordingly, a new Board verified (October 2016) the stock of 7.62-mm M80 SLR rounds which revealed that the second box which was packed on 12 July 1999, contained rounds manufactured in subsequent years from 2000 to 2014, indicating deliberate tampering of the box.
The Board reported (January 2017) a shortage in stock of 7433 7.62-mm rounds in SAPB, as of November 2016.
“The Audit observed that the Police Department failed to act upon the report of the Board and trace the missing ammunition or fix responsibility on the officials who committed the serious offense of fraudulent re-packing of rounds,” the report states.
Meanwhile, the shortage of 7.62-mm rounds had increased to 8398 as of 16 October 2018.
Crime Branch Enquiry
In March 2019, the Kerala government had stated that the matter of the shortfall in ammunition has been taken very seriously and that a preliminary enquiry has been ordered, to be conducted by the Crime Branch.
“The Audit was informed that responsibility would be fixed and that if any criminal misconduct was detected, due action would be taken as per the Code of Criminal Procedure to register a criminal case if warranted. The Audit was also informed that the 25 missing rifles reported by Audit were issued to Armed Reserve (AR) Camp, Thiruvananthapuram in February 2011, under proper acknowledgment and that the errors shown in the maintenance of records/receipts have been found and sorted out,” the CAG official said.
To verify the claim of reconciliation of physical stock of weapons with the stock register, the Audit obtained the verification report from the Deputy Inspector General (Armed Police Battalion) (DIG (APB)) detailing the body numbers of all 660 rifles stated to have been received from the Police Chief Stores as also their distribution to various units under permanent transfer.
“Scrutiny of records at the AR Camp Thiruvananthapuram revealed that the 25 rifles stated to have been issued by the SAPB were neither entered as Receipts in the Stock Register nor the records maintained by the Armoury Inspector at the AR Camp. The Audit also noticed further discrepancies in the verification report of the DIG (APB). The Audit is, therefore, unable to obtain assurance that all arms with the Kerala Police have been properly accounted for and that there is no loss,” the CAG official added.
According to the official, they have not received any update on the probe initiated in March by the Kerala government.
Meanwhile, Kerala police terming CAG report as allegations, has said that it will respond to the report when the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) asks them.
The CAG report has to be sent to PAC by the state government.
“We will provide information on each allegation will be provided to the PAC,” VP Pramod Kumar, Deputy Director at Kerala Police media centre said.