The cold truthThe latest finding by the Board of Audit and Inspection showed that active and retired senior military officials profiteered by fighting over sleeping bag supply contracts worth 100 billion won ($85 million) and ended up providing recruits with low-grade 30-year-old models for bedding.
Officials at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration and Defense Agency for Technology and Quality pocketed grafts and agreed to supply terms according to their self-interests, with little thought given to the quality of the products soldiers use daily. Procurement irregularities are rampant.
They range from costly state-of-the-art jets and submarines to everyday soldiers’ wardrobe and even water bottles and food ingredients. Sleeping bags were added to this supermarket list. According to the investigation, elite colonels were easily conned by corrupt merchants and tried to have the products accepted by their bosses using lies and false reports.
As a result, soldiers were forced to use hard and heavy sleeping bags that were originally designed 30 years ago, even though the military paid a high fee for modern ones. While selfish military officials fattened themselves with kickbacks, recruits had to sweat in the summer and freeze in the winter, deprived of good sleep and rest thanks to these poor-quality sleeping bags.
The Ministry of National Defense asked for another 2.6 trillion won ($2.2 billion) after spending 6.8 trillion won over the last decade for the alleged purpose of improving the service environment for recruits. But from its track record, we can now only suspect where much of the money went.
Authorities should not disregard the irregularities over sleeping bags just because the money involved is less than the usual mega-scale corruption scandal over defense procurements.
They must not tolerate any leakage in tax funds and extra pain forced on recruits who are under mandatory service. Prosecutors should investigate and punish the people involved. The military must also come up with strong actions to cease the longstanding corruption connections with retirees.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 3, Page 30