Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Whither Transparency in Governance

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That the renowned Hotel Pine Wood, a legacy of the British, is sought to be renovated and its wood-work strengthened is a welcome step. But no public works can be carried out on the decision of a single individual in government. There is a process that ought to be followed and that process should be transparent and not give rise to speculations about who won the tender bid and under what circumstances. It is not understood as to why established procedures are given a go by. This has long been the story of contract works in Meghalaya. It is the reason why shoddy work whether of road construction or government infrastructure has become the bane of this State. It is unheard of that a contractor from this state is blacklisted, despite the scores of poorly constructed roads that barely last one season and projects that get into time and cost escalations.
That the renovation and redesigning work for Hotel Pinewood is sought to be done without consulting the Meghalaya Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) which oversees all tourism projects in the State is something that requires scrutiny. It is fair that members of the Board of the MTDC should raise questions on the manner that the contract work was allotted without their knowledge. As stated in the media, the renovation work will be funded by the Meghalayan Age Limited (MAL) but the process of tendering et al, should be the job of the MTDC. The timely intervention of the MTDC Board members has compelled the Tourism Department to now adopt a fair and transparent tendering process. What begs the question is why this process was not adopted earlier. The MAL is an arm of the Government as much as the MTDC is and one should not override the other. Even if MAL were to have within its ranks the expertise to execute the project the process should be seen to be transparent and MTDC should be in the know of this. There’s no gainsaying that MAL has the capacity to get the best professionals to execute its works and the work should go to the firm with the technical know-how to complete what is a prestigious project – the makeover of a heritage Hotel. But why override the MTDC?
That the members of the MTDC only came to know of the project during a joint inspection where the Tourism Minister was also present is a serious lapse especially since a foreign architect was also consulted for the project. That no one could provide details of the components of the project and the total project cost is also enigmatic. These are unhealthy trends but they have also become the hallmark of the MDA-02 Government which is carrying forward its legacy of by-passing standard rules and procedures. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) regularly points to these anomalies but the Meghalaya Government gives it a wide berth. It is here that public vigilance is needed.

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