Concerned over inordinate delays in the construction of strategic roads along the India-China border, the defence ministry has delegated more administrative and financial powers to the Border Roads Organisation for the speedy completion of the projects.
The decision to give additional powers to the BRO came months after the Comptroller and Auditor General also took strong objection to the long delays by the BRO in constructing 61 strategically important roads, with a total length of 3,409km, under the India-China Border Roads project.
The defence ministry said in a statement on Sunday it intended to bring transformational changes in the BRO to improve the pace of execution of work and to achieve the desired outcome according to the requirements of the army.
Besides conferring additional administrative powers to the BRO, the government has enhanced the delegation of financial powers of up to Rs 100 crore to the BRO director general for procurement of both indigenous and imported construction machinery and equipment, the ministry said.
Earlier, the DG had powers of only up to Rs 7.5 crore for procurement of indigenous equipment and Rs 3 crore for procurement of imported equipment.
The defence ministry has also approved policy guidelines to allow the BRO to engage big construction companies for taking up road projects on a turnkey basis.
“The ministry of defence has decided to delegate administrative and financial powers to the BRO right up to the level of chief engineer and Task Force commander, so as to avoid delays on account of references between the chief engineer and director general of BRO and also between the director general and the ministry,” the statement said.
The decision to accord more powers to the BRO comes amid a face-off between the armies of India and China at Dokalam in the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction.
Official sources said the Indian Army was unhappy over delays in the implementation of the India-China Border Roads and had requested the defence ministry to speed up the project, originally scheduled for completion in 2012.
The ministry said a chief engineer in BRO can now accord administrative approval for contracts of up to Rs 50 crore, the additional director general can approve projects worth up to Rs 75 crore and the director general can take decisions on projects worth up to Rs 100 crore.
These projects can be implemented through departmental and contractual modes of execution.
Under earlier provisions, a chief engineer in the BRO could give administrative approval of works only up to Rs 10 crore, that too only for departmental work, whereas the ADG had powers to accord administrative approval only up to Rs 20 crore.
For contractual works, all administrative approvals were given by the DG, who had powers only up to Rs 50 crore.
“With the intent to speed up the tendering process, the defence ministry has now enhanced the powers of the chief engineer for acceptance of bids with cost of contract up to Rs 100 crore and that of ADG for cost of contract up to Rs 300 crore. With this delegation, the entire tendering process including acceptance of bids would be completed at the level of the chief engineer/ADG for a majority of the contracts,” the ministry said in the statement.
Earlier, a chief engineer had the power to accept the execution of contracts only up to Rs 10 crore, the ADG had powers of up to Rs 20 crore and all tenders beyond the limit had to be sent to the DG.
For carrying out a detailed project report, the ministry now has enhanced the powers of the chief engineer to accord administrative approval for outsourcing of consultancy services for up to Rs 2 crore and up to Rs 5 crore to the ADG.
“In case of an emergent need for construction equipment, the DG has been given full powers for hiring up to three years and for chief engineers (project), powers have been enhanced from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 5 crore and the period of hiring has been enhanced from 6 months to one year,” the ministry said.
Earlier, all cases of revision of norms of equipment had to be referred to the defence ministry. In a departure from the earlier policy, full powers in this regard have now been delegated to the DG.
“The ministry of defence in consultation with the armed forces would identify the roads to be entrusted to the BRO and fix priorities by approving the Long Term Roll-On Works Plan and Annual Works Programme for the BRO. Thereafter, powers related to the execution of works have been delegated to be exercised by different levels within the BRO,” it said.
To ensure accountability, software is being developed for an online monitoring of progress of works.
"It is expected that with the delegation of powers by the ministry of defence to the BRO, the pace of road construction in border areas would improve and the BRO would be able to complete ongoing/new projects in a compressed timelines,” the ministry said.