Analysing the Staff Evaluation Procedure
Staff Evaluation or General Staff Evaluation as it is called in the Army, is based on the field evaluation carried out of the equipment fielded by the vendors. The action is carried out by the Service Headquarters (HQ) and the aim of this evaluation is to see the compliance of the evaluated parameters in the equipment in comparison to the parameters laid out by the Request for Proposal (RFP) which in turn is based on the qualitative requirements (QRs). In this article we will analyse the field evaluation results which result in short listing the equipment and the vendors who are compliant for introduction of the equipment into service. The procedure followed is to have the evaluation approved first by the service HQ and thereafter forward it to the Acquisition Wing or Technical Managers (TM) for acceptance of the same. The TM examines the Staff Evaluation Report critically from the beginning of the field evaluation and its reports and then submit the report to the Director General (Acquisition) with their recommendations for acceptance or otherwise.
In case the examination reveals that there is no vendor who is compliant in the field evaluations then the case would be foreclosed on approval of Director General (Acquisition) and a fresh RFP issued after reformulating the SQRs. The DPP has a provision as per which the result of technical trials and evaluation along with reasons for disqualification would also be intimated to the vendors by the Technical Managers. However, there is a deviation in the case of Design & Development (D&D) cases taken by the Defence PSUs or DRDO or even any other nominated agencies. In such cases the Staff Evaluation does not go to the Acquisition Wing but on being satisfied with the report, will decide on the case and field it in DAC or the DPB for approval. This approval may be for limited evaluation on first off production model or for single vendor acceptance.
Associated with the Staff Evaluation is also a stage which is called as Technical Oversight Committee (TOC). This provides expert oversight over the technical evaluation process. The TOC is constituted by the Defence Secretary for selected acquisition proposals in excess of Rs 300 Crores and any other case which is in particular recommended by the DPB. The TOC consists of three members taken from the Service involved, DRDO and a DPSU. The service HQ provides a senior officer of the rank of a Brigadier or Major General or equivalent and similarly, the other two organizations also provide a senior officer. In particular these officers are involved anyway in the procurement of the case which is being considered. For example if a tank is being purchased, an officer from the Air Defence or Artillery branch would be nominated. The task of the TOC is to see whether the trials, trial evaluations, compliance to QRs and selection of vendors were done according to prescribed procedures. The TOC also is mandated to provide oversight on the adopted trial methodology during trials vis-a-vis trial methodology given in the RFP and the trial directive. Basically it means that the trials have been carried out in the prescribed manner and have not been changed or diluted. The DPP also mandates at Paragraph 46 that the committee will have to give its ruling, based on a majority decision, within 30 days which shall not be extended on any ground. The report of the TOC is approved by the Defence Secretary.
The Staff Evaluation is a detailed process and starts with the trial reports. The trial reports are carefully studied by the agency responsible for the procurement or trials and in the case of ‘Y’ category of trials this evaluation is done by the User Directorate in the Army and in other cases it is carried out by the Weapons and Equipment (WE) Directorate as far as the Army is concerned. The entire trial procedure is compared with the trial methodology and the trial directive and each parameter and its way of conduct is then compared. Generally it commences with the user trial followed by the trial reports of the Quality Assurance (QA) agency, maintenance trials and the electronic emission and interference trials. The evaluating officer has to have a deep knowledge of the methods of conduct of these varied trials and without this kind of knowledge it is impossible to carry out the staff evaluation process. Therefore, there is a need to have a re-look at the policy governing the tenure of the officers in the user and WE directorates in the case of Army.
Field Evaluations (Trials) are conducted by the User Service on the basis of trial methodology given in the RFP. The trial methodology should be approved by the PSO concerned at the SHQ. For example, if an artillery gun has to be deployed in the plains sector, desert and the high altitude areas, these are generally evaluated at these places not withstanding the fact that these are carried out in summer and winter months to see the effect of the weather and temperature on the equipment. Therefore, there would be a section for each of these trials in which the parameters which are to be validated are repeated in the different terrain and at different weather conditions of the year. This is one of the major reasons of the delay in evaluation in the field. Although many changes have been incorporated to speed up the process, there needs to be major changes that are to be still incorporated. Well, my aim of bringing out the point was to emphasise the task of staff evaluation. Sometimes it also becomes a drudgery to see the same process being repeated. Then there are cases where retrials are carried out and also re- retrials are also not uncommon. If it has been done, then the trial report would also be different. Similarly in the case of electronic emission and interference trials and the QA trials too there would be multiple reports. In the case of QA, the agencies checking each sub system also are different and these are first consolidated by the QA coordinator and then forwarded to the Service HQ.
The Staff evaluation therefore is a straight jacketed procedure which is an exercise to see and compare if the field evaluation follows the parameters of the QRs in the RFP have been followed or not followed and if there is even one such parameter which is not compliant, the case or the equipment falls or the entire procedure of acquisition is foreclosed. Therefore, the procedure is more of a staff analysis which involves in depth examination to ascertain compliance of parameters.
Is there anything that can be done during this procedure to speed up the procurement process? Although the DPP specifies timelines for each step in the procedure, it can seldom be followed due to multiple agencies evaluating the case. The Staff evaluation is carried out on file but as number of agencies are numerous, the entire process also often tends to get delayed . Considering the foregoing it is imperative that full coordination among all stakeholders be ensured to enable timely processing of procurement cases for optimum capability development of the armed forces and for boosting indigenisation and self-reliance in the defence sector.