COVID-19: Govt eases procurement norms for select ministries, depts till next month

New Delhi, Mar 30 () The government has relaxed mandatory public procurement norms for five departments and ministries, including health and textiles, till April for buying products that are key to deal with COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Expenditure through a notification also allowed these 5 departments and ministries to decide themselves on items which could be classified as "essential supplies".

Generally government departments and agencies have to mandatory procure goods and services from government e-marketplace (GeM) portal managed by the Commerce Ministry.

These relaxations would be for the five departments and ministries - Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Textiles, Department of Consumer Affairs and Ministry of Civil Aviation - to procure goods and services from any supplier.Advertisement

"The prevailing health emergency requires immediate procurement of certain items in quantities which may not be available with a single supplier and or within the timeframe in which they are needed. There is also a possibility that some items may not be available in the country in sufficient quantity within the timeframe in which they are needed. Certain items are currently in global short supply and are effectively 'sellers market'," the Expenditure Department under the Finance Ministry said in a notification dated March 27.

It further said that with the shutting down of international flights and surface transport routes, international procurement may have to be done through Indian missions.

"Being a national health emergency of unprecedented and historic scale, delays in procurement will result in loss of lives. Hence there is a paramount public interest in ensuring that necessary supplies are procured in the fastest possible manner and financial procedures have to adapt accordingly," the department added.

While relaxing the GeM procurement rules, the department said that in view of the urgency involved in procurement of medical and other essential supplies where time is crucial, special instructions are issued for "emergency purchases" related to COVID-19 operations.

It also relaxed expenditure guidelines for these ministries and departments. For current fiscal, these ministries can utilise their savings for meeting expenses relating to relief operations for COVID-19 and take post-facto approval from expenditure department by April 15. It asked the concerned ministry and departments to submit a "contingency expenditure plan" by April 10 outlining the expected amount of spending for relief operations.Advertisement

"These instructions... shall be in force for the period April 30 or till superseded by another order whichever is earlier," the notification added.

The number of COVID-19 cases in India has crossed 1,000 with 29 deaths so far. JD MKJ RVK