THE PROCUREMENT OF INDIA
Given the way procurement of various types keep the headlines over and over again, directly, indirectly or tangentially makes us the believe that it the procurement of India. While the government is the biggest procurement agency in the country, there is a complex ecosystem which has been developed over the years of private business entities, manufacturers, consultants and other stakeholders that sustains it. The stakeholders can be legal, alegal or otherwise. What is procurement then; it is the purchase of items ranging from a fighter aircraft to a ream of printing paper. It can cover manpower and a variety of services from McKinsy to a daily wage manual labour.
Never thought of but the democratic reality of procurement means; procuring of men, material and services in any area to uplift the quality of life of the people, directly or indirectly and the security and economic viability of the nation, through public money, following well established process / procedure, in the most fair and competitive manner. In the present scenario, even recruitment falls under its purview, given the rampant financial impropriety happening and reported in this arena. It seems to be encompassing the policy apparatus as its extended arm, with the politics of policy enabled favours becoming the mainstream.
Even beyond it, though generally difficult of believe, would be laws being enacted to support / enable the procurement of a favoured type. The moral of the story is that there is hardly anything which has not been brought under its purview by design. The more powers you have to control, influence or dictate procurement, the more powerful you are. This extends from a lowly corporator to high and mighty influential ministers. Floods, roads with potholes, nature of liquor sale etc all happen through the same process in what can be called as the procurement of India. From e-auction or e-procurement to supposedly digital watertight marketplaces to tech expertise enabled and scrutinised tender process, it is left to the country to decide what the country gained out of it.
The ushering in of digital technology enabled procurement was supposed to usher in a different regimen in the process and bring in a different level of transparency in procurement that would raise the credibility bar. Governance of procurement was to metamorphose. RTI was an adjunct additional check. India against corruption made clear the public sentiments. But alas, no change took place amongst the stakeholders; governments, officials, private sector all, the physically rickety procurement process gave way to a digitally rickety one. Procurement is a game of conscience, expertise and delivery in the same order. Is it a tool to deliver everything the nation needs or a golden goose, is the billion-dollar choice? The answer is known to all!
PROCUREMENT IS GOVERNANCE AND GOVERNANCE IS PROCUREMENT.