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The government e-market (GeM) will expand its operations into government projects this year with a market worth of 10 trillion by developing end-to-end contactless and paperless systems, to bring standardization and transparency in government bidding process, starting with the panchayat and urban local body levels.

GeM helps central and state government departments achieve the best value for the money of taxpayers by carrying out efficient public procurement using tools such as e-bidding, reverse e-auction, and demand aggregation. The earlier system involved physical invitation of bids, bid evaluation, and finalization of the winning bid under the directorate general of supplies and disposals, a century-old government procurement arm.

GeM will now diversify into the projects bidding process of governments and central public sector enterprises (CPSEs), after initially focusing on government procurement of goods and services, GeM chief executive officer Prashant Kumar Singh said in an interview.

“While PSEs such as ONGC and IOC may be well-endowed to come out with their own requests for proposals (RFPs), urban local bodies or panchayats don’t have the wherewithal to make a proper RFP. Though the intent is there, there is no standardization in the bidding process. We are considering coming out with an RFP builder. When you specify your requirement, it will give you the standardized bidding document. It will provide end-to-end service from payment and project implementation to the post contracting stage. It will also facilitate milestone-based payments and e-measurement of progress of the project on a dashboard for real-time monitoring," he said.

GeM has already got its mandate for developing “GeM Works". Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her FY21 budget speech had proposed to create a unified procurement system in the country for providing a single platform for procurement of goods, services, and works through the GeM platform.

“It offers a great opportunity for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)," Sitharaman had said. After the budget announcement, GeM had put out an approach paper inviting comments from departments, PSUs and multilateral agencies. “By and large, people have supported it," Singh said.

GeM Works will lead to standardization in the project bidding process across the country and will eliminate the scope for corruption, Singh said.

“Today, for similar types of contracts of ONGC and Power Grid, they have different conditions. Within the same organization also, there is no standardization in the bidding process. For payments, where there is a human interface, there is a chance of corruption. This will be eliminated when we provide end-to-end faceless solution," he said.

However, GeM does not intend to make it mandatory for government departments or PSUs to use the standardized bidding process for the time being, though buying goods and services on GeM platform is mandatory for central government departments.

“We will first try it out with more amenable PSUs and categories of works across departments, quantify the benefits, show it to people and if there is acceptability, then scale it up. Maybe at some point in future, we will make it mandatory. How far we go will depends on how well we perform," Singh said.

Orders placed on the government-run online marketplace rose from 23,000 crore in FY20 to 37,000 crore in FY21, clocking a compound annual growth rate of 93% since the portal was launched in August 2016.

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