Live cartridges disappeared in batches, according to the CAG. Here is an explainer.
Since the disappearance of Kerala Police’s 25 rifles and 12,061 live cartridges was exposed by S Sunil Raj, IA & AS, Accountant General (General & Social Sector Audit), in a Performance Audit on Wednesday, both ruling and opposition have started a blame game.
While ruling party leaders insist that live cartridges went missing in 2015, that is when the current opposition party was in power, the opposition leaders have asked why the present government has remained silent till now.
The Lede deciphers the chronology for you.
Who conducted the audit and what kind of audit was it?
Under the directions of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Office of the Accountant General (General and Social Sector Audit) in Thiruvananthapuram conducted the audit. And it was a Performance Audit.
What period did the Performance Audit cover?
When was the audit conducted and how was it done?
The audit was conducted between May 2018 and October 2018. The audit was by test-check of relevant records in the Government Secretariat, Police Headquarters, the Kerala Police Housing and Construction Corporation Ltd. The audit also conducted joint physical verification to assess the status of various components of schemes for modernisation of the police department.
Who all agreed to the audit?
An Entry Conference was conducted on 25 April 2018 with the Additional Secretary, Home Department and Inspector General (IG), Police Headquarters during which the audit objectives, criteria, and methodology for the conduct of audit were discussed and agreed upon.
Did a meeting happen after the audit and when did it take place?
Yes. The post-audit meeting happened on 08 April 2019.
Who all participated in the post-audit meeting, what was discussed and did the government agree with the recommendations made by the audit?
In the post-audit meeting (Exit Conference), the Additional Chief Secretary, Home, and Vigilance Department and the State Police Chief participated and the observations of Audit were discussed in detail. Yes, the government agreed with recommendations made by the audit.
What did the Performance Audit find?
Audit noticed that the Stock Register and related records of arms and ammunitions were not properly maintained.
Which Stock Register and what had happened to it?
The Stock Register belonged to the Special Armed Police Battalion, Thiruvananthapuram (SAPB), and the entries there had many over writings, the use of white correction fluid and striking off of entries, etc. The entries and corrections were not properly authenticated.
What did the audit do then?
Audit, therefore, conducted on 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.
Who were there in the joint verification?
The joint verification was conducted by Audit in the Bell-of-Arms of SAPB along with the Assistant Commandant.
What did audit find?
Shortage of 25 nos of 5.56 mm INSAS rifles and 12,061 live cartridges. And additionally, the audit also noticed that the shortage of 250 nos of 9 mm Drill Cartridges was sought to be covered up by replacing the same with 250 nos of dummy cartridges.
Was there any document to show how dummy cartridges came into the possession of SAPB?
No. 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.
Did the SAPB offer any explanation?
No. The Commandant, SAPB offered no explanation to Audit on how the 250 unauthorised dummy cartridges came into their possession.
When was the shortage of 7.62 mm bullets found?
On 14 September 2015 and 19 September 2015.
What happened on 14 September 2015?
The Officer Commanding, B Company of SAPB reported a shortage of 200 nos of 7.62 mm bullets which were allotted for the conduct of Long Range Firing at Kerala Police Academy, Thrissur.
What happened on 19 September 2015?
A Board, constituted by the Commandant, SAPB (19 September 2015) to conduct verification of all ammunitions in SAPB. It found a shortage of an additional 200 nos of 7.62 mm bullets in another box that was to contain 600 bullets.
What did the Board do?
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.
Since the 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 OFB for dispatching to the Police Chief Stores. The Board reported no other discrepancies in stock.
What did the Police Chief Stores say and when?
The Police Chief Stores contradicted the conclusions arrived at by the Board constituted by the Commandant, SAPB and intimated the State Police Chief in June 2016.
What was the contradiction and what happened then?
The contradiction was 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 verification.
When was the verification ordered and what were the instructions?
Verification was ordered in August 2016. The Additional Director General of Police (Armed Police Battalion) was told to conduct a comprehensive verification of stock of 7.62 mm M80 SLR rounds.
What happened then?
A new Board was set up and it verified 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.
When did the verification happen?
When and what did the Board report?
In January 2017, the Board reported a shortage in stock of 7,433 nos of 7.62 mm rounds in SAPB, as of November 2016.
What was the shortage of live cartridges as of October 16, 2018?
The shortage of 7.62 mm rounds had increased to 8398 then.
What did the Kerala government do?
In March 2019, the Kerala government 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.
What was missing?
25 nos of 5.56 mm INSAS rifles.
What was the audit told?
Missing rifles 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.
What did the audit do?
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.
What did the audit find?
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.