Procurement: How Corruption Kills


January2, 2007: Sri Lanka has been in a hurry to buy munitions in the last few months, with the gradual revival of their war with Tamil separatists (the LTTE). One supplier, that has been particularly eager to help, is Pakistan. Thus in the past year, Sri Lanka has purchased a lot of its bombs and artillery shells from Pakistan. But the quality control of that stuff is low, and about a third of the shells and bombs fail to explode because of defective fuzes. This is not surprising, as the Pakistanis built their munitions industry with Chinese help. The Chinese, in turn, learned their weapons manufacturing techniques from the Soviets, who traditionally produced stuff with a 30-40 percent failure rate.

But it gets worse. Government corruption is pretty bad in both Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and this has helped to expedite the purchases. It has also inflated the prices (to take care of the bribes and "commissions.") It's also believed that Pakistan is shipping it's older stocks to Sri Lanka. That makes sense, because eventually munitions age to the point where they are more likely to fail. Since the Sri Lankans want to use the munitions right now, it would appear that clearing out the oldest stuff would work out for everyone. Normally, yes, but another bad habit picked up from Russia and China, is that Pakistan tends to keep older munitions way past their expire date. That's another reason for the high failure rate of some of the stuff Sri Lanka is receiving. But the Sri Lankans were quick to pick up on this, and have been checking the quality on shipments, and demanding replacements for defective items. The Pakistanis comply, and are still making a profit.

Meanwhile, the large number of dud shells and bombs landing in enemy territory produces two additional problems. First, some of that stuff is going to be opened up by LTTE technicians, and the explosives extracted, to be used against the Sri Lankans (in the form of terrorist or roadside bombs). The duds that are not exploited in that fashion, will eventually have to be taken care of, at great cost in money and lives, by bomb disposal troops. Corruption is one of those things that just keeps on giving.


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