A Common Sense Approach to Avoid Vigilance Cases

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A Common Sense Approach to Avoid Vigilance Cases

Developing a philosophy of life for public procurement

By Girish Bhatnagar, GM, ECR

Lurking Fear

Employees, even honest ones, have lurking fear of landing in vigilance cases which withholds them from giving their best to the organization. This fear not only arises from uncertainties about the view that would be taken by vigilance organization in case of a genuine mistake without any mala-fide intention but also from plethora of ever-changing rules.

The Hard Way

One hard way to avoid this fear psychology is to refresh our knowledge of rules by frequent refresher trainings, self-study, seminars and symposiums. All this involves hard work as well as time and effort. In certain posts the workload may be so much that time and effort for training, symposium and self-study may not be available.

A common sense Touch-Stone

Seeds of all the rules, procedures and regulations are fundamental principles – like the rules of financial propriety which can be further distilled to four commonsense keywords: prudence, equality, consistency and transparency (call it 'PECT'). We can use 'PECT' as a touch-stone for judging our knowledge and application of rules.

As an example we will discuss the procurement process from the point of view of 'PECT' to illustrate the applicability of commonsense keywords for the purpose of avoiding vigilance cases.

Philosophy of Life

Besides this, even honest persons who are well up with rules and regulations, face vigilance cases because of attitudinal problems leading to lopsided decisions which fail the test of PECT. Behind various lopsided attitudes that we develop, lies an erroneous philosophy of life. It is necessary to review our philosophy of life to correct such attitudinal problems. Let's look into this aspect so that we may develop a correct philosophy of life which will keep us from developing attitudinal problems which lead to vigilance cases.

To sum up in this paper we will discuss application of commonsense keywords (PECT) and a correct philosophy of life which will help us avoid vigilance cases.

5-Rights of procurement: Public procurement should be based on PECT. These four keywords should enable each procurement to be done to obtain "5-Rights" of procurement:

(i) Right quality;

(ii) Right price;

(iii) Right time;

(iv) Right place and

(v) Right quantity.

The above "5-Rights" can only come if the procurement is done from the right source.

We will derive certain dos and don'ts by application of PECT to the "5-Rights".

Right Quality: To obtain right quality, we must ensure right description, right specifications, right drawings and right inspection (DSDI). PECT in obtaining right quality would demand:

(i) Description, Drawing, specification and inspection should be bare minimum as per the ultimate use.

(ii) DSDI should not suite only a particular firm or a group of firms.

(iii) DSDI should be complete by itself. There should be no ambiguity. All tenderers must get equal opportunity in getting all relevant details.

(iv) Procurement of items "as per sample" creates lack of transparency and should be resorted to only in cases where feel and finish cannot be specified. Even in such cases it will be best to display stock samples and call for tenders and inspection conforming to such samples instead of inviting submission of samples.

(v) While tender is finalized no major deviations should be allowed in DSDI. While accepting the tender the passing over of offer or acceptance of any offer should be strictly as per the laid down DSDI. There should be symmetry of arguments applied to offers which are passed over and those which are accepted.

(vi) During execution of contract modification of DSDI should be discouraged.

Right Price: PECT in this case can be ensured if:

(i) Rate justification is based on tangible factors like last purchased rates, published maximum retail price, raw material cost, prices of similar or alternative products, prevalent industry unit rate price etc.

(ii) Negotiations or counter-offer should be extremely rare and should be restored to only after following laid down guidelines and criteria. Unnecessary negotiations/counter-offers just to extract a small price advantage even from reasonable offers will vitiate the tender system itself. Remember the tender system is designated to obtain best possible price. Its purpose is not to obtain unreasonably lower price by coercion.

(iii) Be diligent to look at all pages of all the offers received howsoever beyond the range of consideration. There are likely to be lurking price implications at unlikely places in the offer.

(iv) Be extra alert in case of closely competitive tenders and in case of unhealthy cartel type of situations.

Right time & place: PECT in this case will require:

(i) The right time and place which have bearing on price should be specified exactly in the tender. The offer accepted should conform to specified time & place.

(ii) Logistics of supply/mode of transport etc. should also be clearly specified.

(iii) Payment terms which are related to right place and time should also be specified.

Right Quality: PECT in this case will demand:

(i) Right quantity to be justified taking into account all the stocks available; including the ones in subsidiary stores/in safe custody; the pending orders in hand; past pattern of consumption tempered with operational changes. Club as many requirements for the same item as possible, duly taking into account the shelf-life of items.

(ii) Major change in the tendered quantity creates lack of transparency.

(iii) In case of distribution of quantities among more than one tenderer, PECT needs to be maintained.

Predisposing Attitudinal problems: Following general attitudinal problems predispose people to vigilance cases.

(i) A reputation for lack of balanced/non-controversial approach also leads to vigilance cases. Using one-sided arguments in favour or against a particular proposition attracts controversy. The employee involved in procurement must consistently take decisions which avoid controversy.

(ii) Being too intellectual or getting swayed by smart arguments is not very good. Arguments of 'penny wise and pound foolish' often lead to questionable decisions. Do not use any criteria for judging offers which are not advertised in the tendered documents.

(iii) Too secretive or lack of openness is also detrimental. Lack of access to the officer and failure to be a good listener also prevents relevant facts and inputs for decision making. Allowing sufficient access to authorized tenderers to explain their cases and being a good listener would avoid many wrong decisions. Helpful attitudes, maintaining equidistance from all vendors helps you stay away from vigilance cases arising out of vindictiveness.

(iv) Too much ego and a feeling of being 'master of all that one surveys' is very dangerous.

(v) Covering up of lack of timely planning by procedural shortcuts is dangerous. Timely planning, timely action would avoid urgent/emergency procurements using shortcuts procedures. It is these shortcuts procurements which may lead to vigilance cases. Therefore a uniform timely action should be preferred rather than display of gutsy shortcut skills.

The philosophy of life to correct attitudinal problem: The right attitudes have their seeds in the 'philosophy of life' that we develop. A right philosophy for persons involved in public procurement is based on:

(i) Maintain innocence and a sense of enquiry - it is not only the source of creativity and innovation but also makes you uncontroversial.

(ii) Keep a watch on your ego, worries or fears – these generate attitudes leading to violations of PECT. This can be corrected if the employee takes himself lightly, develops a sense of humour and irony and realizes that each and every procurement is not the end of the world itself.

(iii) It is essential to philosophically distance 'self' from your official persona. Too close an identification of 'self' with your official post leads to all ills. Remember in any post you are only a temporary guest. If you catch yourself repeating "when I was so-and-so in 1978 ......." - it's a danger sign. Be alert to unnecessary greasy praise because that may be a trap.

(iv) Avoid partisan identity based on caste, region or group politics – these lead to decisions violative of PECT.

(v) Develop an attitude of empathy with all those with whom you come in contact. Empathy will alert you whether your actions are going to violate PECT.

(vi) Temper your desire for the wealth or expensive life-styles. Do not compete with others in this area. Accept that a government job can not provide extravagant wealth or life-style. If this is unacceptable, you are in a wrong job.

To sum up: Development of a right philosophy of life leads to right attitudes which incorporate PECT as a part of your personality. Such personality is the ultimate shield against vigilance cases.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 19 August 2014 05:56 )  
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