-CT News Bureau

New Delhi, Jan 11: In an attempt to help the DeitY realize the challenges faced by the industry while participating in the e-Governance projects, National Association of Software Services Companies (NASSCOM) facilitated an interaction between the two on Sunday.

NASSCOM had earlier submitted a detailed representation to the Ministry on the subject, highlighting the issues as well as recommending some short and medium term enablers in order to bring about a win-win partnership between the industry and government.

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Issues pertaining to various clauses in RFPs and contracts were raised, particularly, relating to unlimited liabilities, dispute resolution and arbitration, lack of counter guarantees, payments etc., most of which were felt to be one-sided, with risk overload on the implementation partner. Non-adoption of standardized RFP and contracting terms by various State governments in particular, was cited as a major area of concern for the industry.

Of late, it may be noted that industry’s participation in various eGovernance projects has seen a steady decline with several large projects resulting in a NO-BID Situation. One of the top concerns of the industry was on outstanding payments, where, the situation has taken a turn for the worse in the last 18 months.

It was felt that there was a need for the government organizations to take ownership of their own respective roles and responsibilities, where currently no conditions precedent or counter guarantees are binding on them - resulting in inordinate delays and the industry being unfairly penalized for issues beyond their control.

“Given the unique nature of this field which involves technical, commercial, legal and governance issues, Nasscom President suggested that an arbitration mechanism by a neutral panel, be constituted, to resolve disputes over contractual or payment terms within a defined timeframe, to provide confidence to the industry.

“Also, addressing various challenges in eGovernance procurement, through model RFPs and Contracts is not adequate. Government also needs to focus on how it would ensure adoption and implementation of these recommendations. The project tendering process needs to be flexible and should also have enough room for product companies to participate in the eGovernance initiatives of the government,” said a Nasscom press release.

Nasscom urged the government to review the components in eGovernance and Digital India which could be left completely to the private sector without getting into the complex procurement process to save time on deployment. The advent of new technologies like social media, cloud, mobile services in combination with open data initiatives and open APIs has created vast opportunities to do things differently.

While talking about the recommendations, R. Chandrashekhar said, “Given the focus of the government on ICT and the launch of initiatives like ‘Digital India’ the industry is keen to work with the government on strategic e-governance initiatives. We believe that addressing the short term challenges would provide a much needed fillip and encouragement to the Government – IT Industry partnership.

“To ensure a sustainable approach, it is imperative that necessary time bound steps are taken to implement the recommendations on short term measures and consultations undertaken to propose a detailed roadmap and measures to address the long-standing challenges for a win-win partnership.”

The meeting chaired by R.S. Sharma, Secretary DeitY, was attended by senior government officials from DEITY, Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance and the Department of Commerce and R. Chandrashekhar, President, NASSCOM led a large team of CEOs and eGovernance Business Heads of Industry.