The defence ministry has approved the delegation of more powers - both administrative and financial - to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), right up to the level of chief engineer and Task Force Commander, so as to avoid delays in project implementation.
The time taken for references between the chief engineer and BRO headquarters as well as between the HQ DGBR and the defence ministry is so long that road projects identified for construction along the LAC over 15 years ago have not been completed till now.
Functioning under the control of the defence ministry since 2015, the BRO is engaged in road construction to provide connectivity to difficult and inaccessible regions in the border areas of the country. The ministry intends to bring transformational changes in the organization in order to improve the pace of execution of works and to achieve the desired outcomes according to the requirement of the armed forces.
The defence ministry says it has revised various powers with a view to the smooth functioning of the organisation so as to bring in transformational changes in the BRO.
According to the earlier delegation of powers, a chief engineer in the BRO could give administrative approval of works only up to Rs10 crore, that too only for departmental works, whereas the ADGBR had powers to accord administrative approval only up to Rs20 crore for departmental works.
For contractual works, all administrative approvals were given by DGBR, who had powers only up to Rs50 crore. For all projects above Rs50 crore, the defence ministry had to grant its approval.
Enhancing the powers at all levels in the BRO, the defence ministry has now approved that for both departmental and contractual mode of execution, a chief engineer of BRO can accord administrative approval up to Rs50 crore, ADGBR up to Rs75 crore and DGBR up to Rs100 crore.
Further, according to the earlier delegation of powers, a chief engineer in the BRO had the power to accept execution of contracts only up to Rs10 crore, ADGBR had powers to approve projects worth up to Rs20 crore, beyond which all tenders had to be sent to DGBR.
In order to speed up the tendering process, the defence ministry has now enhanced the powers of chief engineer for acceptance of bids with cost of contract up to Rs100 crore and that of ADGBR for cost of contract up to Rs300 crore. With this delegation, the entire tendering process, including acceptance of bids, would be completed at the level of chief engineer / ADGBR for a majority of the contracts.
For adopting the DPR mode of execution, where there is a need to outsource consultancy services, the ministry has now enhanced powers of the chief engineer to accord administrative approval for outsourcing of consultancy services up to Rs2 crore and ADGBR for up to Rs5 crore and full powers beyond Rs5 crore to DGBR.
The defence ministry has also relaxed procurement norms for construction machinery with a view to replace obsolete construction equipment in the BRO with modern equipment. The ministry has enhanced the delegation of procurement powers to Rs100 crore to DGBR for both indigenous/imported equipment.
According to the earlier delegation of powers, DGBR had powers to procure equipment worth only up to Rs7.5 crore in case of indigenous equipment and Rs3 crore for procurement of imported equipment. All other cases of procurement had to be referred to the defence ministry.
In case of emergent need for construction equipment, DGBR has been given full powers for hiring up to three years and for chief engineers (project), powers have been enhanced from Rs50 lakh to Rs5 crore and the period of hiring has been enhanced from 6 months to one year.
The BRO is engaged in road construction activities in the most difficult areas and the usage norms and fixation of life of construction equipment varies from terrain to terrain. Earlier, all cases of revision of norms of equipment and fixation of life had to be referred to the defence ministry.
The defence ministry in consultation with the armed forces would identify the roads to be entrusted to the BRO and fix priorities by approving the long term roll-on works plan and annual works programme for the BRO. Thereafter, powers related to execution of works have been delegated to be exercised by different levels within the BRO. However, to ensure accountability, a MIS is being developed for online monitoring of progress of works.
From the current year, the BRO has initiated the practice of preparation of DPRs for all new road projects to be taken up and has adopted the project mode of execution. In an important policy change, BRO has now also started adopting the EPC mode of execution. The ministry has approved policy guidelines in this regard, based on which the BRO may engage big construction companies for taking up road projects on a turnkey basis.