Common Sense Guidelines for the Tender Accepting Authority

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Common Sense Guidelines for the Tender Accepting Authority

By Girish Bhatnagar, GM, ECR

Not Above Law

Long time back, when things went wrong, normally the Tender Accepting Authority's (TAA) integrity was not questioned. It was only TC members who used to be held accountable. This is no longer the case. As per the current guidelines, TAA is not immune from also being held responsible.

There are lots of Dos; Don'ts and guidelines for the Tender Committee (TC) members. But TAA is normally left to develop and follow their own thumb rules and principles. They work in a rule-rarified atmosphere. What are the bedrock fundamentals that a public servant can rely upon, in such and similar, rule-rarified situations?

Job-Profile of the TAA

The Tender Committee system is based on a system of checks and balances – which is the bedrock fundamental – spirit of which should be kept in view. The TAA is like a philosopher and guide to the TC members. He is supposed to be a regulator rather than an executer. He should be indulgent, patient and sympathetic Coach, Guru and a Sage. It's not an activist, hands-on role. As compared to this, it's the TC convener-member who is supposed to be the activist executioner and more directly responsible for the procurement/work.

The Common Sense Guidelines for TAA

The derivative guidelines arising from this Job-Profile are:

1. Casting the Die (CTD): TAA should insist that the tender document for all tenders which will come to him for acceptance, should be got approved from him before these are floated. This is logical, because the die is cast after floating the tender with particular tender conditions. A correct decision can only be ensured if the Tender Documents are rightly drawn. When the tender recommendations are received by the TAA, he may find that he does not agree with the formulation of tender conditions. He may therefore have serious reservation about the resultant TC recommendations. That stage is too late for any corrective action. Therefore, it is important that the formulation of tender documents have his prior consent.

2. Adequate distance to be kept (ADK): A philosophic distance from the actual process of tender finalization is the hall-mark and essence of a good TAA (and in fact of all Public Servants). His duty is only to ensure that no logical or procedural issue remains explicitly unanswered in the tender committee proceedings. He should not thrust, his own evaluation of the tender, on the TC members.

Unless there is something substantial in the TC recommendations, which is not in accordance with the laid down rules/procedures or with the tender conditions or if natural justice is violated - TAA should merely record his acceptance of the recommendations. He should desist from writing his own appreciation or comments on the tender. He should be conservative enough to hold back his minor and cosmetic objections, provided the final decision meets his broad approval.

TC recommendations are also not the right forum for settling policy issues or for obiter-dicta directions. If such issues do arise out of the situation in a tender, these should be separately dealt with.

While the TC should liberally write everything big or small that raises its head; the TAA should restrict himself to only major issues.

3. Sounding Board (SB): In case something substantial is noticed, TAA should not lay down his own decision in the matter Sue Moto. This will be violating the checks and balances on which the Tender Committee system is built. He is a tender-accepting-authority and not one-man-tender-deciding-authority. He should point out the questions that remain unanswered or un-deliberated by the tender committee and ask them to deliberate and resubmit their own recommendations regarding such questions. If TC is able to convince the TAA either way – then ADK (para above) applies again.

4. Areas of Dissent (AOD): After returning the recommendations for review by the tender committee, if he still does not agree with the judgment of the tender committee, he may record his own reasons why he thinks that different conclusions are warranted.

Rules are not very clear, at least in Railways, regarding the manner of dealing with a dissent between the tender committee and TAA. In certain organizations, it is laid down that in such circumstances the case must be referred to one level higher for a final decision. However, this is not clearly laid down in Railways and in practice it has never been followed. This is logically so. The authority who has been entrusted with the power or responsibility (which is unconditional) of acceptance of certain value and types of tenders - he should not shirk his responsibility, by passing it on to a level higher. However, the checks and balances on which TC system is based demands, that if TAA is making a major deviation from the tender committee recommendations, he should refer back the matter to the tender committee in the form of a reference "tender committee may reconsider why we should not do the following......".

The final deviating decision of the TAA should only be recorded, after addressing any negative recommendations from the tender committee regarding the proposed deviating decision.

5. Rules are proven by the Exceptions (RPE): It cannot be pretended; that there will never be situations, where above guidelines cannot be followed. There could be situations of urgency, where too much back-reference to TC would be unwarranted. Under certain conditions, it may be better to combine back-references under SB and AOD above. The TC may (as they do sometimes) become adamant illogically or dilatory. Or the deviating decision of the TAA may be only cosmetic or minor variation. TAA may have to go on record in detail in such cases.

To sum up the above guidelines in acronyms:

  • CTD: Casting the Die
  • ADK: Adequate distance to be kept
  • SB: Sounding Board
  • AOD: Areas of Dissent
  • RPE: Rules are proven by the Exceptions

i.e. CASAR in short is the summary of guidelines.

Rules and Procedures of Tender Decisions

Merits of the Tender Committee decisions have not been commented upon here. This had been addressed in my earlier article –

  • Developing a philosophy of life for public procurement
  • A common sense approach to avoid vigilance cases.
  • For sake of completeness let me give the essence of that article – which is relevant for the TAA.
  • 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

This can be reduced to acronym of 'PECT'. We can use 'PECT' as bedrock fundamental for such situations.

Even honest persons 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.

The philosophy of life to correct attitudinal problem: A right philosophy for public servants is based on:

(i) Adequate distance to be kept (ADK) - 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.

(ii) Innocence and a sense of enquiry to be retained (ISER) - it is not only the source of creativity and innovation but also makes you uncontroversial.

(iii) Wealth or expensive life-styles – desire for these to be tempered (WELDT) - Do not compete with others in this area. Accept that a government job can not provide extravagant wealth or life-style.

(iv) Ego worries or fears to be watched (EWFW) – 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 transaction is not the end of the world itself.

(v) Empathetic attitudes to be developed (EAD) - with all those with whom you come in contact. Empathy will alert you whether your actions are going to violate PECT.

(vi) Partisan identity to be avoided (PIA) – Partisan Identities based on caste, region or group politics lead to decisions that violate PECT.

Above can be acronymed to A I WEEP.

To Sum Up

TAA (or any public servant in a rule-rarified situation) should follow common sense guidelines that are derived from his Job Profile. Attitudes that are in consonance with the principles of PECT are necessary to avoid vigilance problems. Developing a right philosophy of life is essential to develop such right attitudes.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 12 August 2014 16:15 )  
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