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For tenders valuing more than Rs500 crore, the tender committee will have additional member level officials and the tender accepting authority will comprise of the concerned board member. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
For tenders valuing more than Rs500 crore, the tender committee will have additional member level officials and the tender accepting authority will comprise of the concerned board member. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Govt initiates railway reforms, decentralizes tender process

The railway ministry has delegated decision-making powers for contracting railway works and services to field officials to facilitate faster execution of projects

Mumbai: In a move that marks a significant decentralization of powers, the railways ministry has delegated decision-making powers for contracting railway works and services to field officials to facilitate speedier implementation of projects.

“The ministry of railways has decided that all the cases for acceptance of works and stores tenders, which as per extant delegations are to be referred to railway board by zonal railways and production units, will now be dealt with and finalized by zonal railways and production units," the government said in a statement on Friday.

General managers at the zonal level and director generals of production units will be the tendering authority, the statement said.

The decision comes within just over a month of the E. Sreedharan committee for delegating tendering and commercial powers for railway projects to lower levels of bureaucracy submitting its report to the railway minister Suresh Prabhu. The committee submitted its report on 27 November.

The move is aimed at reducing corruption and fast-tracking of the decision-making process. It will also entail that the lower level officials now empowered with tendering powers will be accountable for their decisions.

“My decision not to deal with tenders by minister moves closer to implementation by Sreedharan submitting report. Powers will be delegated to GMs (general managers) and DGs (director generals) for speedy implementation of projects. Hope transparency and merit prevails," Prabhu had said in a tweet after the committee submitted its report.

Prabhu formed the committee the day he took over as railways minister on 9 November. The final report of the committee is expected by end of February. The committee has to suggest a set of procedures to be followed in tendering processes so that transparency and accountability are ensured.

While most tendering powers have been delegated to the lower level bureaucracy, a different procedure has been prescribed for tenders that the railway board invites, usually tenders for inducting new technology or new initiatives for railways as a whole.

For such projects of upto 500 crore, a tender committee consisting of concerned executive directors will invite tenders and a tender accepting authority consisting of concerned additional members will accept these tenders.

For tenders valuing more than 500 crore, the tender committee will have additional member level officials and the tender accepting authority will comprise of the concerned board member.

Here, too, the railway minister has been relieved of his responsibility of the tendering process.

“Earlier there used to be a lot of power concentrated with the railway board and very little with the general managers. Nitish Kumar in his tenure started this process of decentralization. Suresh Prabhu has further delegated the full power to the lower level officials," said R. Sivadasan, former financial commissioner, ministry of railways.

“It is a good move which will cut down delays immensely and make the officials recommending the tenders also responsible for their decisions. This will increase the accountability in the tendering process," he added.

In 2003, the then railway minister Nitish Kumar had called for decentralization of decision-making process at the administrative and financial levels in the railways to improve services and earnings.

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