CAG pulls up HRD Ministry over Aakash project

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AAKASHNew Delhi, September 6; The CAG on Friday slammed the HRD Ministry for the shortcomings in the Aakash tablet project, raising questions over “arbitrary” selection of IIT-Rajasthan to launch the scheme without carrying out an assessment of its capacity to undertake the work.

In its report tabled in Parliament, the government auditor observed that IITR had told the Ministry that around 90 per cent of the tablets supplied by Datawind between August and November 2011 were rejected by it due to complaints in the devices such as heating and they being slow.

“The Ministry decided to launch Aakash through the IITR without ascertaining their capacity to undertake the work. This adversely affected the project delivery. It also placed Rs. 47.42 crore at IITR’s disposal without carrying out a prudent assessment,” it said.

“This raises issues of financial propriety. This adversely affected the project delivery along with an avoidable expenditure of Rs. 1.05 crore,” the report said.

Under the Akash tablet project, the government has plans of distributing the low-cost access-cum-computing device at a cost of Rs. 1,500 to students and teachers for educational purposes.

The CAG said documents suggest that the Ministry did not provide any justification for selecting IITR to execute the order and thus its selection was arbitrary.

“The audit view is further borne out by the fact that IIT(s) Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Bombay and IISC, Bangalore had participated. However, they were overlooked and a relatively new IITR was selected ahead of others,” it said.

CAG said IITR was awarded the project when it was operating from a temporary premises but the “important observation of the Finance Division was ignored.”

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