Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised corruption-free governance (“Na khayenge, na khaane denge”), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and American multinational Cisco have caused the Indian exchequer a loss of about Rs 300 crore in the name of expanding the existing National Internet Backbone (NIB) infrastructure.
Much of the money for two huge purchase orders (POs) was diverted to a “slush fund” that was appropriated by senior executives of the two companies. The companies began their collaboration in 2015 as part of their effort to deepen public sector business, especially strengthening the BSNL-pushed internet.
Cisco higher-ups based in the US and India have begun an internal investigation into the matter. The Prime Minister’s Office, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) are also aware of the scam.
Yet, no probe has been ordered into the scandal by the government. The Cisco investigation is led by the company’s UK-based Director (Management Investigations) Steve Williams. Williams is part of the company’s global chief financial officer (CFO) Kelly Kramer’s team.
Flouting Norms Due to ‘Urgency’
BSNL placed a PO (No CT/PO/20/2015-16) for Rs 95 crore on New Delhi-based Presto Infosolutions in December 2015 (File No 80-06/2015-MMC/MPLS routers/317) for expanding NIB infrastructure. NIB infrastructure has been running partially on Cisco-supplied equipment for the past 12 years. The order involved spares for routers “which are being effectively maintained presently by HCL” for the last five years.
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