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Road ministry questions Plan panel’s appraisal procedures

LiveMint logoLiveMint 04-06-2014 Ragini Verma

New Delhi: The ministry of road transport and highways has refused to attend pre-appraisal meetings for public-private partnership (PPP) road projects convened by the Planning Commission, a move that underlines the differences between the ministry and the plan panel over appraisal procedures.

The ministry did not attend the last pre-appraisal meeting called on 30 May by Gajendra Haldea, adviser to the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission.

The move comes five months after R.P. Singh, chairman of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), requested road secretary Vijay Chhibber to tell the Planning Commission to discontinue pre-appraisal meetings for PPP road projects, arguing that they were a waste of time and resources.

“We have received several complaints by our officials who have been going for these meetings who say that the nature of discussion is often repetitive or fault finding in nature with little value add after spending hours, so we have taken a stand to refrain from these meetings,” said a ministry official, who did not want to be named. Planning Commission representatives are a part of the regular appraisal process in which the PPP approval committee (PPPAC) approves PPP projects and the external finance committee approves public funded projects, said a second official who confirmed the ministry’s stand.

“So there is no need to add (to) red tape by holding these additional meetings at the Planning Commission,” said this official. The issue has caused discomfort between the plan panel and the ministry for some time now.

NHAI’s chairman R.P. Singh, in the letter he had written to the road secretary in January this year, had cited a decision taken by a PPPAC meeting on 14 September 2011 as saying, “while a single pre-appraisal meeting with all members of the PPPAC may be convened to clarify issues, multiple pre-appraisal meetings for the same projects at the cost of delays in issues of appraisal notes by Planning Commission may be reviewed.”

“Member secretary, Planning Commission indicated that such meetings may not be encouraged as PPPAC is the forum for discussion and clearances with regard to PPP projects and all matters may be brought to the notice of PPPAC.”

Mint had reported this in a 14 January story.

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