Don't let private partners emulate the public sector
Samir Sachdeva | June 30, 2010
A news report, in Deccan Herald on Monday, that Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) may be about to lose the Rs 1,000 crore Passport Seva Project (PSP) came as a shocker to the entire e-governance community. If it comes true, the development would spell the failure of the second major Mission Mode Project in the National e-Governance Plan during the implementation phase after the Common Service Centre project.
Deccan Herald reported that TCS had already been fined Rs 48 lakh for delays and glitches and that the project had not stabilised even after a month of its pilot launch in the IT city of Bangalore. This, after a year-long delay in the project to begin with.
While nothing can quite match the disappointment with TCS, the country's largest IT company, there have been several e-governance projects where the private partner has failed to deliver. The e-Biz project, designed to deliver government-to-business services online, encountered problems right at the stage of bidding. The egovworld project landed in court because the content offered by NIIT was below par. And even in the much-acclaimed MCA21 project, the government had to relax the standards set in the beginning.
Common to most failures in the public-private partnerships in e-governance is aggressive bidding by the private players who do not follow it up by delivering the promised level of service. So what is the way out? One way is to extend the deadlines and relax the standards, as the government has been repeatedly doing, to save such projects. But this can only contribute to the string of failures. Private partners must be held more accountable to their own promises in the signed contracts. Any breach of contract must be severely punished and contracts terminated forthwith. Else, the very purpose of bringing in private players will be defeated.
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