Malpractices in Project Tendering
By Daksesh Parikh
Transparency is one ingredient totally conspicuous by its absence in the tendering process. Mystery continues to shroud the exercise from the time the tender is floated till the final award is made. This is one of the major reasons for poor quality of services witnessed in works of government and quasi-government bodies. The associated malpractices, a natural fallout of these covert exercises, has kept many firms away from bidding for municipal projects or public works department projects. The stigma of being branded as a firm catering to these utilities also refrained many middle-level units from getting associated with these projects either as contractors or as sub-contractors.
The proliferation of information technology and in particular the widespread usage of the Internet is thankfully putting an end to this. And what is even more laudable is to see the public sector enterprises taking a lead in putting up tenders online. Indian Oil, BHEL, NTPC and ONGC are some of the popular sites which are frequented by equipment vendors and contractors catering to the new projects market. Even international companies have started following this practice. Qatar Petroleum recently posted as many as 122 tenders on its website with a view to speed up tendering and cut down on paper work.
Some companies have even gone one step further by giving the names of the bidders along with the name of the firm to whom the award was made. Justification for awarding the tender is also displayed on the site. The Karnataka Neervari Nigam Ltd, a state government enterprise, is one such site giving information. Of course, it may not be possible for all PSUs to emulate KNNL even if they so desired. Some larger corporations like ONGC with offices at multiple locations may have 100-odd live tenders at any given point of time. Keeping tabs and collating information of awards to all vendors or contractors would be a virtual nightmare.
However, displaying successful bidders for contracts over a certain benchmark account could be considered. Transparency and wider dissemination of relevant information will certainly help in mitigating some of unhealthy practices. Wider participation would also ensure if the perception that merit alone would be the sole criteria for pre-qualifying or shortlisting bidders. Of course, legal, technical competence and financial issues would have to be sorted out subsequently and not online. However, even putting up tenders online would be a step forward.