Tamil Nadu e-procurement system not transparent, says CAG report

None of the estimated 1.45 lakh inter-state migrant construction workers were registered with the TNCWWB, the report said.

BySouth First Desk

Published Jun 30, 2024 | 10:51 AM Updated Jun 30, 2024 | 12:15 PM

CAG Report. Representational Image. (Creative Commons)

The Tamil Nadu Construction Workers Welfare Board (TNCWWB) did not initiate effective action to bring the inter-state migrant workers under its fold, a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India said on Saturday, 29 June.

None of the estimated 1.45 lakh inter-state migrant construction workers were registered with the TNCWWB, the CAG Performance Audit on Welfare of Building and Other Construction Workers of Tamil Nadu for the year 2024, said.

The CAG also said the envisaged objectives of the e-procurement system in the state, namely, promoting competition and transparency in the procurement process, were not achieved and the patterns of bidding indicated bid rigging and cartelisation.

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‘Welfare schemes suffered’

Implementation of welfare schemes for the benefit of registered workers suffered due to abnormal delays in the processing of claims made by registered workers.

“Lack of clarity on scheme implementation had resulted in extending benefits to potentially ineligible persons. Lack of due diligence had led to non-extending benefits to a large number of beneficiaries during the Covid-19 pandemic and simultaneously, a significant number of beneficiaries received assistance more than once,” the report tabled in the Assembly stated.

Significant shortfalls in achievements under the Mission Mode Project, launched by the Government of India, contributed to deficiencies in the implementation of welfare schemes.

The report said that TNCWWB did not maintain a database of Cess assessed, collected and remitted and thus lacked a system to ascertain the quantum and timely assessment of Cess.

“The audit found significant shortcomings in registering Establishments/Employers by the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH), which adversely impacted the scope for data sharing with TNCWWB to ensure assessment of Labour Cess,” it said.

‘Significant undervaluation of cost’

The audit found significant undervaluation of the cost of construction by applicants for building permits, and the local bodies who were to collect the Labour Cess at the time of approving the building permits did not have a system to ensure the correctness of the estimated value of the construction.

Despite the creation of TNCWWB in 1994, significant shortfalls continued in the registration process of unorganised construction workers.

“The manual as well as the electronic data of registered workers had significant shortcomings. Inaccuracies in capturing vital data such as Aadhaar number, mobile number and bank account number of the registered workers compromised the quality of the registration database,” it said.

Deficiency in the identification of eligible construction workers through proper surveys resulted in the non-registration of a significant number of workers.

The CAG made 20 recommendations including asking the government to ensure that TNCWWB maintains an updated database of all Cess remitting institutions and establishments and framing guidelines for the estimation of construction cost of buildings for which building permits are approved by local bodies, and TNCWWB should ensure adherence to the guidelines.

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‘Noticed cartelisation’

The e-procurement pattern, viz, bid rotation, bidders with family relationship, bid submission from procuring entity computers, different bidders placing bids for a tender from the same IP address, coded intimation by bidders indicative of bid rigging and cartelisation were noticed, the report for 2023 tabled in the Assembly said.

“These fraudulent practices among the bidders and the failure on the part of the officials involved in the evaluation and approval of the tenders derailed the efforts of the government of TN in increasing participation, reducing costs, enhancing transparency and improving the procurement system,” it said.

Data analysis of 1.34 lakh tenders for which valid bids were received revealed that 444 bids submitted in 208 tenders were received from bidders having the same address registered in the eProcurement portal and were submitted from the same IP address.

“The instances point to collusive bidding as either the bidders from different geographical locations of the state submit the bids from the same IP address or submit the bids from the Department’s premises indicating that the Department was a party to it,” it said.

There was no ‘Centre of responsibility’ to coordinate and monitor the functions of the eProcurement portal. 74 percent of the procuring entities did not utilise the e-Procurement portal even after a lapse of 15 years since inception.

Non-uploading of tender evaluation reports rendered the eProcurement system incomplete affecting the transparency and objectivity of the tender process and perpetuating dependence on manual records.

Further, the prescribed timelines as per Tamil Nadu Transparency in Tender Rules, 2000 (TNTIT Rules) were not followed by the departments and the software was not designed to incorporate the timeline-related provisions of TNTIT Rules, it said.

(With PTI inputs)

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