While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) finds itself cornered over allegations of irregularities in handing out work orders, those in the government claim the ambiguity over the tendering procedure is, at least partially, to be blamed for it.
The finance department has now decided to phase out the rate contract method, in which tenders are called on the basis of fixed prices for common commodities brought in bulk and for a fixed term decided by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
“We are in the process of issuing a new government resolution (GR) to reduce the amount under which a rate contract can be given. We made e-tenders mandatory for contracts between Rs1 crore and Rs5 crore in April. We now plan to bring down the amount in the range of Rs50 lakh to Rs2 crore for each department for a year,” said finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.
The minister admitted there was confusion over the tendering method, as too many departments and methods were being used for purchase. “We have set up a committee of officials to come up with a standardised purchase policy for the government. With several departments purchasing similar commodities for different scheduled prices, there is duplication. Rate contracts were used extensively for 15 years. We are committed to bringing in a transparent system,” said Mungantiwar.
For instance, the first order making e-tendering mandatory for purchases amounting to Rs3 lakh was issued by the IT department. But it was not applicable for purchases, where the rate contract was fixed by the director general of supplies and disposals of the Union commerce ministry.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced in the legislature in December that to bring in greater transparency, rate contracts would not be allowed for purchases amounting worth more than Rs1 crore and e-tendering would be made mandatory. However, the finance department issued the order on the announcement only in April 2015. By this time, several departments had made purchases through the rate contract, as the fiscal ends by March 31.
“Many more departments may have cleared purchases through rate contracts prior to the order in April. There are several aspects to the women and child development department purchases, which is being dubbed as a scam. But opting for rate contract is not a violation. Other issues such as the quality of supply, selection of contractors and changing the specifications may be problematic,” said a senior official.