Corruption alleged in HP Panchayati Raj exposure visit contract allocation
SHIMLA – HW received a scanned copy of a complaint filed with the Director of Panchayati, Himachal Pradesh. It was followed by a copy of the RTI filed seeking information regarding the schedule and expenditure on Kerala exposure visits organized by the Panchayati Raj Department every year.
In complainant alleged that the department did not follow the standard procedure before awarding the contract. The directions under HPFR 2009 Rules directs the department to invite bids through proper advertisement of tender to allocate the contract to eligible private agency. The tender in this case was awarded to a private contractor by the DPO, that deprived other candidates from fair opportunity. The complaint said,
It is brought to your kind notice that DPO Shimla had finalized the exposure visit during the month of July – 2015 to give exposure about the Panchayati Raj activities to the representative of Panchayat Member/BDC and Zila Parishad members and their staff. Sir the work relating to traveling & boarding/loading likely to be incurred on the exposure visit has been out sourced to a private agency by the DPO, Shimla without inviting bids through advertised tender system. As provided under Himachal Pradesh Financial Rules 2009 the activity/exposure visit costing upto Rs. 10,000/- & above are required to be finalized after inviting bids through competitive firm through advertised tender. However, the prescribed procedure has not been followed in this case. Since the same is illegal thus the exposure visit finalized by the DPO is required to be cancelled by inviting bids from other competitions through advertised tender published, at least, in two leading news papers.
It is, therefore, requested that necessary action in the matter may kindly be taken on priority basis so as to avoid any litigation/irregularity as well as to safeguard the interest of the competitive firms(s)
The complainant has also filed an RTI seeking the following information:
The contractor or the trip organizer is then responsible for the transportation and lodging of the delegation throughout the exposure visit. The delegation can consist of 25 – 40 members. The total cost of the expenditure is huge. Lakhs of rupees are are spent to facilitate the delegate.
The exposure visit is meant to provide knowledge regarding panchayat activities in Kerala that has decentralized
The complainant alleged that the DPO allocated the contract after inviting quotations from some pre-selected candidates without any advertisement.
The allegations are also hints towards manipulations in the standard procedure to favor a particular candidate, who in return might have bribed some officials to obtain the contract.
The complainant told us that he had approached the Director, Panchayati Raj with a written complaint. Surprisingly, the Director had no information regarding any scheduled exposure visit, according to the complainant.
What is an exposure visit?
The exposure visit is meant to provide knowledge regarding panchayat activities in Kerala and it socio-economic features, local self government structure, decentralization and local government system, participatory planning and development experience, gender mainstreaming, poverty reduction etc. The visits are paid to the functionaries of the some selected villages to obtain first-hand knowledge regarding the working mechanism in panchayats.
In reality, such visits are nothing more than perfect opportunities to spend a holiday at the cost of public tax money.
After reviewing the copies of complaint and the RTI, HW editor called at provided contact number of the office of District Panchayat Officer, Shimla to verify the allegations. HW was told that the DPO isn’t at her office. He called the next day and again we received the same reply.
However, the official who attended the call told us that there is no such procedure under which bids are invited through advertisement of tenders.
The DPO further added that previous contract for exposure visits were also awarded by the same way without any advertisement of tender. When HW insisted for an official statement regarding the same, the official told us that the DPO will be able to provide us sufficient and accurate information regarding the matter. We were told that the DPO is on holiday.
We dialed the DPO’s contact number provided on the official website.
HW member tried to verify two relevant facts like,
Is there any direction in the Panchayati Raj to allocated contracts above 10, 000 through proper invitation for tenders and its advertisement?
The second piece of information requested was related to the exposure visit scheduled for the month of July 2015.
However, the DPO didn’t find the topic comfortable to discuss and didn’t provide any direct answer initially. However, after repeated query regarding the same, she denied having any such direction under Panchayati Raj or HPFR 2009. We further informed her regarding the copy of the written complaint filed with the Director and the RTI filed by the complainant.
After 15 minutes, the DPO again called the HW member, who was covering this public grievance, and threatened to file a complaint with the high command of whatever newspaper he was employed with.
Apka high command Jalandhar main hain hai na, main call karti hun wanha apke head ko,
Well, we didn’t know either that HW had some high command in Jalandhar. Thanks for the information.
The DPO also threatened to file charges of misbehave with an officer on duty if she was further asked any questions regarding the mentioned exposure visit or any of her official activities.
Exposure visit ka contract kisko aur kaise dete hain ye app mujhe batayenge? App kaun hote hain mujhse ye poochne wale ki contract hote hain ya nai?
We were wondering that it took 15 minutes for the DPO Shimla to realize the misbehave issue and all that. May be, the DPO was trying to figure out details of HW. The anxiety and irritation was apparent in the DPO’s voice. That suggests that there is some crust in the complaint lodged.
First of all, respected DPO Shimla, HW isn’t a newspaper of media house. There is no high command that could be used to harass reporters like it’s done to most of the journalists or reporters from regional dallies. Here, at HW, the public, our members and readers make the high command.
We speak on the behalf of public. We represent public and public has every right to ask questions from any government official employed for its service. Perhaps, such government officials have forgot that they are meant to serve the public, not rule them.
Moreover, no tricks or threats will work on HW members. Unfortunately, we are quite poor at flattering too.
A lot of journalists, RTI and social activists are murdered brutally in India every year. Some of them are burned and buried. Almost every day, we read about someone burnt alive, others axed in public.
We are quite aware how the police and state machinery is used to harass those seeking replies from or trying to expose corruption among high rank government officials and politicians.
HW won’t mind facing the same while fighting against corruption or in effort to raise public grievances and distress.
Coming back to the grievance, we would request the Director Panchayati Raj Department to look into the matter and take note of the irregularities in the allocation of the contract. We are also forwarding the copy of this complaint to higher authorities.
Original Copies of the RTI and written complaint filed with the Director