The Bengal finance department has recently issued an order making it clear that the chief engineers of works departments such as the PWD should take responsibility of finalising tenders worth up to Rs 5 crore requisitioned by other departments.
With this, the finance department order dated October 29 sets aside a PWD order issued in July 2020 saying the process of finalising the tenders of projects worth more than Rs 2 crore would be passed on to departments that requisition projects to the PWD.
The order clearly states that some works departments were referring “cases for acceptance of tenders” to the non-works departments that “don’t have the requisite technical expertise”.
The order is deemed significant as the PWD’s July 2020 order had left non-works departments in trouble because they lack the required technical expertise to finalise tenders and award projects to a competent agency.
Last year’s move by the PWD, which had been seen by many in bureaucratic circles as an attempt to shrug off responsibilities, had left open the scope for incompetent agencies to bag state government projects.
“Technical competence of any agency can be judged properly only by a department that has engineering back-up,” said a senior governance official.
Sources in the government said that the way the finance department has come forward to the rescue of all other department had set an example.
“If the finance department comes forward to put a stop on (this sort of) bureaucratic passing-the-buck, (state government) projects can be completed on time and cost escalation can be averted,” said a source.
According to sources, it was a practice in the government that the works departments, which have a strong engineering set-up like the PWD, execute development projects on behalf of the non-works departments that don’t have expertise in the area.
“From preparing detailed project reports to floating tenders and finalising the tender process, everything was managed by the PWD after the projects were requisitioned. But last year, the PWD decided to hand over the responsibility of finalising the tenders to the departments themselves... an attempt (by the PWD) to shrug off responsibility. The finance department’s order now has put the onus back on the PWD,” said a senior government official.
A bureaucrat explained why the order by the finance department was timely and useful for many non-works departments.
Citing an example, he said that if the PWD sends back submitted bids by agencies to the school education department to finalise a tender floated to construct a school building, it would be tough for the school education department to take a call as it does not have an engineering wing to scrutinise the merits of each bidder.