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Scrutiny
 
CORRUPTION CLAUSE: DELIBERATE INCLUSION
The Corruption Clause!
The Term “Accept or Reject without a Reason” Is The most Misused term across Government contracts – and for Shamefully Corrupt Purposes
Issue Date - 17/03/2011
 
A lot can be judged about a nation’s progress by scrutinising the degree of transparency of its institutions. An advertisement published by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), in The Times of India dated February 16, 2011, was duly confounding. It mentioned that NBA was empanelling training agencies and was inviting ‘expressions of interest’ (EOIs) . But the interesting part starts here. Apparently, the NBA reserved “the right to accept or reject any or all Expressions of Interest or modify the terms thereof without assigning any reason.” If one was wondering what was the source for all the corruption, bribery and rampant illegalities that have been engendered by our accreditation bodies, then one doesn’t need to look far. This clause to “accept or reject any contract without assigning any reason” – a clause that can be found in many other notices – is where it all starts, the key reason why officials obtain the power to be shamelessly corrupt.

Sadly, this problematic clause is so widespread throughout India and so much in vogue across ministries, PSUs, government organisations and departments that it puts paid to all the hollow talk of the Central government being honest about their efforts against corruption. Take your pick of the worst of the lot from the examples below.

The Ministry of Defence’s application for booking NPB arms from the Indian Ordnance Factories– obviously high value purchases like revolvers – carries the clause, “The factory reserves the right to refuse to book any order without assigning any reason whatsoever and without giving any notice.” More pathetic is the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, which, while inviting quotations for servicing and maintaining of staff cars, writes in the notice, “The Department reserves the right to terminate the contract [at] any time without assigning any reason.” The Ministry of Agriculture is not far behind in its delinquent notice for heat convectors maintenance, “The undersigned reserves the right to reject or to accept any quotation...in whole or in part without assigning any reason.” The scandalously loss making Delhi Transport Corporation walks the self-humiliating mile in their tender for purchase of scrap tubes, “The Chairman/MD... can accept/reject the tender without assigning any reason.”

The story is the same across geographies. Bihar and J&K governments and others, nationalised banks like PNB, Goa State Cooperative Bank and many more, ministries throughout India, everybody has utilised this ignominious clause to gain undue advantage. The inordinate – and one might say illegal – strength of this clause is what has provided government officials, PSU bureaucrats and even politicians the power to blackmail contract seeking entities.

 
Such power inevitably leads to an extremely high chance of rampant bribery and corruption as not only do immoral politicians and bureaucrats grab every available chance of demanding money from even qualified parties applying for the tender, but acquiescing private sector applicants who might not qualify on the real criteria also find this route more preferable to grab the contract. The worst part is that this clause brings us back to the pathetic license raj era; and yet, no ministry or government department will let go of it, given the power to earn that it provides them.

Without even one iota of doubt, there is an urgent need for the government or the judiciary to pass strictures against this clause and ensure that the power to accept or reject contracts is via transparent means and not through unilaterally decided arbitrary decisions that cannot even be questioned at a later date. Just look at the putrefied list of our gloriously corrupt government representatives and you start understanding why this clause has become a debauched, unethical entity.

AICTE’s Chairman R. A. Yadav was suspended in 2009 under a corruption case, while AICTE member secretary K. Naryan Rao was even arrested. In the same year, former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda was arrested in a case of disproportionate assets. Ramachandran Nair, CEO, LIC Housing Finance was arrested in 2010, again on charges of bribery charges. A. K. Srivastava, CMD, Nalco was arrested in February 2011, of course, on bribery charges. Secretary General of CWG organising committee Lalit Bhanot, former telecom minister A. Raja, and more, the list simply does not seem to stop.

Our proposed solution to resolve corruption by getting rid of the clause, obviously sounds too simplistic by itself. But wonderfully, the most complicated problems in the world have had quite simple solutions. With the government running away from owning up to the issue, it’s obviously the judiciary that has to get working. Well, we guess even the judiciary has to clean up its house first of all. The Tis Hazari Courts, in their tender for purchasing aerosol insecticide, writes, “The Purchase Committee reserves the right to accept or reject any tender without assigning any reason whatsoever.” Way to go judiciary, way to go!
Akram Hoque           

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