Readers may have been closely following the debate around the Lokpal and the Lokayukta Bills in Parliament. A special mention in Parliament about transparency in Public Private Partnership Projects (PPPs) got lost amidst the din.
Special Mention about PPPs in Parliament
Readers may recollect the email alerts that we have been sending out since last July on the controversy about the coverage of PPPs under the Right to Information Act. Subsequent to that chain of emails, Mr. Sebastian PT published an article in the periodical - Outlook Business on the subject (attached). This article may also be accessed at: Here.
Subsequently Mr. K N Balagopal, a parliamentarian from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), raised the issue through a special mention in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) . The text of his special mention is attached. It is also available in the uncorrected verbatim record of the debates on he Rajya Sabha website. As that document is prohibited from circulation by the RS Secretariat until the official debates are published by them, I have attached a scanned copy of the special mention signed by the Hon'ble MP. He has made a demand that all PPPs be unambiguously brought under the RTI Act. He also pointed out that PPPs are unwilling to divulge facts about their working to the people.
Auditing of PPPs - our findings through RTI
Readers will recollect our previous email alert about the guidelines published by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for auditing PPPs. As we were refused access to copies of the concession agreement relating to the PPP of the Puducherry Port by the Government of Puducherry we used the RTI Act to find out how many PPPs are audited by the C&AG after issuing auditing guidelines in 2008. We sought the following information in our RTI application:
a) The list of names, geographical location and the implementation status of Private Public Partnership (PPP) projects audited under the authority of the C&AG during the period 1st April 2008 – 1st August 2011;
b) Please indicate whether copies of the audit reports for all the PPP projects mentioned above are available in the public domain free of cost or as priced publications;
c) Please indicate the authority responsible for providing to any member of the public copies of audit reports of PPP Projects;
d) Please indicate whether audit reports of PPPs under Central Government are placed before any parliamentary committee for scrutiny, if so the name of such committee and a brief description of all the stages involved in the scrutiny process may please be provided."
The PIO did not bother to send a reply within the deadline. We received a reply (attached) after we filed the first appeal with the appellate authority. The appellate authority also forwarded the same reply to us in response to our appeal. As we received the information free of cost we have not contested the matter further. However the reply receievd from the C&AG reveals some interesting facts about audit of PPPs:
The sum and substance of this exercise of chasing PPPs is - citizens are unable to get information about PPPs from them directly, or through the nodal departments in governments (our experience with the Govt. of Puducherry is an example) nor is information about audit reports of PPPs easily available in one lpace either at the Central or State level. It appears that a very large number of PPPs have probably never be audited. Perhaps this conculsion itself be mistaken due to teh scanty nature of the data available in the public domain. However it is not possible to drawn any other conclusion as the guidelines about criteria for choosing PPPs for audit are also not in the public domain.
Readers are requested to take up this testing exercise with the offices of the Accountants General in their own States and to find out which State-level PPPs have been audited so far. Please share your success or failure stories with us. We will circulate it widely. Also do share your indepth analysis of the C&AG's reply to our RTI. We will disseminate that as well.
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Access to Information Programme
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
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