It is a welcome piece of news that the Planning Commission (PC) has decided to revise the existing Development Project Proposal (DPP) format to help check 'misappropriation and wastage' of taxpayers' money spent on public sector development projects. The Commission, according to a report published in this paper Tuesday last, would seek a number of new yet very important pieces of information from the relevant ministries/agencies about the projects, in the revised form of the DPP. None has ever cared to incorporate such information into the DPPs.
Of the provisions proposed to be incorporated into the DPP format by the PC, mandatory presentation of feasibility study report on the projects, yearly maintenance chart, stakeholders' analysis and delineation of responsibilities of project directors and executing agencies would be considered quite important. The absence of many such pieces of vital information does certainly create an obstacle to the approval process of development projects. It is rather surprising that the PC did not take any fruitful move to remove the deficiencies so long.
The PC does receive a large number of DPPs from the ministries/ divisions every year and a good number of them do lack necessary information. Usually, a feasibility study on any development project, carried out by a competent consultancy firm, can help most part of that information gap. That too is not made available with the Commission by the project executing agencies. This is particularly so, in the case of projects that are prepared and pushed ahead due to political pressure or on some other considerations.
The PC is often forced to send back project proposals to the ministries/ divisions concerned seeking information one after another as the DPPs do not contain the same. However, the propensity to skip necessary information among most government agencies in the matters of development projects is quite dominant. The approval of projects does often get delayed due to the reluctance of the executing agencies to furnish specific project-related necessary information at the time of presenting proposals for their execution. Evidently, execution of public sector development projects is beset with myriad problems, leading to wastage and misuse of substantial amount of taxpayers' money. Both preparation and execution of development projects do have deficiencies. Volumes have been said and written about the lapses in project execution. But much of the problems faced during the execution of projects are often found rooted to their faulty preparation. Moreover, many projects do start limping soon after their execution or fail to deliver in line with their objectives just because they were ill-conceived.
The PC is tasked with the job of scrutinising project proposals, in terms of their economic and technical viability and objectives. But it can hardly carry out its job properly if the project executing agencies, deliberately or otherwise, do not make available all the information it needs. The Commission, unfortunately, at times, also comes under pressure to include unapproved projects in the annual development programmes. Such an unhealthy practice does vitiate the entire development planning process. In the greater interest of the national economy, this needs to be stopped. The approval of the proposed changes in the DPP and strict adherence to those could make it happen.
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