In 2006-07, a procurement review carried out on the Technical Education Quality Improvement Project (TEQIP) in India shocked and surprised project authorities as well as the World Bank. Even in the third year of implementation, participating Engineering institutes were unable to follow the agreed processes and procedures. That situation eventually lead to the development of web based PMSS (Procurement management Support System) currently being used in TEQIP Phase 2 program.
The procurement Review Consultants reported an astonishing 56% variation and resulting non compliance of procedures in the sample of reviewed contracts. A series of further assessments and introspection brought out the main issues that plagued the procurement system. These were:
(i) Geography: challenges of ensuring consistency and adherence to agreed procedures in projects that covered a wide area between hundreds of institutions as seen institutions in different states following their respective procedures , using inappropriate methods of selection, etc.
(ii) Consistency: given the overall low value, qualified procurement staff were not viable for each institution and this, coupled with frequent transfer of staff resulted in major issues in maintaining of quality of the procurement process.
(iii) Delays: addressing timely processing of contracts which were bogged down by administrative approvals and
(iv) Monitoring: It was clear that a more efficient post award contract management and monitoring mechanism was needed to avoid cancellation and/or delays release of payments.
All these findings led the project to develop software to allow more than 200 engineering higher education institutions spread across the states to carry out procurement in an efficient and consistent manner after major issues in TEQIP Phase 1. With US$ 200 Million in procurement needs for a large project, conventional methods of issuing a Procurement manual and conducting a few training sessions were not appropriate. With the advantage of IT connectivity and technology savvy faculties in the institutes, the Procurement Management Support System or PMSS was born.
PMSS was developed over a period of one year involving efforts from the National Project Implementation Unit TEQIP NPIU and national experts from engineering institutions with continuous support from the World Bank Procurement Team. During the consultative phase, NPIU and the developers, Compulink Pvt Ltd. (now Glodyne Technoserve Ltd.), visited institutions to understand the process.
The roll out was planned with considerable testing, piloting and pilot training for 14 NITs organised in March 2011. Four regional training programs were organized for participating institutions. Trainings were facilitated by NPIU, World Bank and Software Consultants focused on procurement principles and practical application. First time users reported they could complete learning and navigating software in 30 min, reflecting user friendliness and ease of navigation of PMSS.
For Swati Gamaliel and Prakash Singh in the National Project Implementation Unit (NPIU) of TEQIP, life has become very hectic since the roll out of PMSS in April 2011, but without any complaints! They feel a part of a revolutionary shift in project implementation and are thrilled with the openness and transparency brought by the system. Prakash says he get calls even at 10:00PM, for clarification from engineering institutes working on procurement planning in PMSS. Swati is amazed at the enthusiasm shown by faculty members on PMSS; she finds many late night log-ins by institutes.
While speaking to the trainees at a recent event, Prof. A U Digraskar, the Central Project Advisor (CPA), for the development of PMSS, called it a “Game Changer” for TEQIP. He recalled all the problems faced by the earlier project in ensuring agreed procedures by all participating institutes. Given the positive feedback on PMSS training and the successful approval of procurement plans through the system for NITs, Prof Digraskar said that half of the procurement procedures would be taken care of by PMSS! “For the first time, I am finding the advantage of procurement planning as a means for project implementation and monitoring.”
Prof O G Kakde, Dean and TEQIP Coordinator of VNIT, Nagpur, the first institution whose procurement plan, approved in PMSS has now successfully carried out said “PMSS procurement planning had really made all faculty members sit down and think what we needed for realizing the Institutional Development. The best part of the system is the alerts we get automatically on procurement to be initiated and other tasks”.