With the world’s worst outbreak of COVID-19 severely straining the health system in the country, the government has made sweeping changes in the way departments procure medical supplies, including allowing procurement of the same item at different rates.
Relaxing tendering norms, the Department of Expenditure has allowed global tenders to be floated for less than Rs 200 crore as well.
The Department of Expenditure, under the Ministry of Finance, on April 24 issued special instructions relating to relief operations for COVID-19 pandemic and said that the prevailing health emergency on account of the unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases across the country requires immediate procurement of certain items in quantities which may not be available with a single supplier and/ or within the time frame in which they are needed.
“The instruction in this Department’s OM (Office Memorandum)… dated May 15, 2020… specifying that no Global Tender Enquiries shall be invited for tenders up to Rs 200 crore shall stand relaxed and hence it shall be permissible to invite GTE where necessary,” said the instructions, which have been put up on the ministry’s website on Monday.
As part of its Aatmanirbhar Bharat package, the government in May last year notified amendments to General Financial Rules (GFR) to ensure that goods and services valued less than Rs 200 crore will be procured from domestic firms, a move which was aimed at benefitting small and medium enterprises.
Rule 149 of GFR provides that procurement of goods and services through the Government’s e-marketplace (GeM) will be mandatory for items available on GeM portal.
“In the present situation, vendors under GeM, even if orders are placed, may not always be able to effect deliveries of supplies on time and desired locations, due to the rapidly changing situation on account of the critical pandemic situation which requires extreme flexibility in making available the critical life saving goods to the medical care facilities,” as per the instructions, which would be in force till May 31.
In view of the urgency involved, where time is the essence and delay may result in loss of life, these instructions, which are applicable to the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (including Department of Health Research) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), have been issued for any emergent purchases and transportation of medical and other essential supplies related to COVD-19 operations.
As per the instructions, when these ministries and departments are undertaking ‘single source procurement’ of goods or procuring ‘non-consultation services’ like air and other transportation services, through nomination, then they would not be required to float tender on the GeM portal.
The relaxed norms provide that such procurement can also be done from more than one source, if the entire quantity required is not available or is not immediately available from one source. “Such procurement may, if unavoidable, be at different rates,” as per the instructions.
“If the entire quantity required is not immediately available from any one method of procurement, the procurement may also be resorted to simultaneously by multiple methods, namely procurement under Rule 166/204, procurement through GeM, and procurement through other procurement methods (including through Indian Missions) and such procurement may, if unavoidable, be at different rates,” it added.
While Rule 166 of General Financial Rules (GFR) relates to single-source procurement of goods, Rule 204 pertains to procurement of ‘non-consultation services’ like air and other transportation services through nomination after consultation with the Financial Advisor of the specific department or Ministry.
India is facing the world’s worst outbreak of COVID-19 cases with more than 3 lakh new daily COVID-19 cases being reported for two weeks now. More than 2.46 lakh people in India have died from the virus infection.
Public health system is buckling under the weight of surging infections and deaths with several parts of the country reporting shortage of hospital beds, medical oxygen, medicines and vaccines.