Bill suggests prison for corrupt private bidders

New Delhi: Private bidders for government business will be subject to penalties and imprisonment if they are found guilty of corruption, collusion and anti-competitive behaviour, according to the draft public procurement bill.

In suggestions which will have far reaching impact on the projects like airports, ports and electricity, the bill provides for a separate set of rules for public private partnerships.

The bill, based on recommendations of the Vinod Dhall committee, is aimed at transparency and accountability in the procurement made by all ministries and departments of the central government, the central public sector enterprises and the constitutional bodies whose expenditure is met from the Consolidated Fund of India.

The Dhall committee had also submitted its recommendation to the Group of Ministers on ensuring transparency in public procurement.

Annual government purchases are estimated at Rs 1.7 lakh crore, often open to misuse and corruption, as evident from several scams like fund misuse in Commonwealth Games.

The draft bill seeking public comments, provides that the term of imprisonment for those held guilty of corruption will be equal that prescribed in the Prevention of Corruption Act which is applicable to public servants. It provides for automatic debarment on conviction for certain offences.

A single information window for all matters relating to procurement will be set up and it will be a statutory requirement to publish data regarding bids and the names of all the bidders, including those debarred. E-procurement and e-payment will be enabled.

There will be statutory backing for integrity pacts between the procuring entity and participating bidders.

Open competitive bidding will be preferred method of procurement and international best practices would be followed in negotiations and framework agreements. It also provides for a grievances redressal mechanism.

Currently there is no overarching legislation governing public procurement by the central government and Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs).

The General Financial Rules, 2005, govern procurements made by the Central Government. Some ministries and departments have specific procedures and manuals to supplement these Rules. Procurements by CPSEs are governed by their own Manuals/ Procedures.