Government brings PPPs under the ambit of RTI Act
The union government has opened up public-private partnership (PPP) projects to public scrutiny by bringing it under the RTI Act. As per the guidelines issued by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) on April 15, the public-private partnership (PPP) projects are now open to public scrutiny. The DoPT guidelines categorically specify that “all information relating to PPPs must be disclosed in the public domain” henceforth suo motu, as per provisions of section 4 of the RTI Act. The issue of disclosure of information relating to PPP was discussed in the article - Is there any check on the public funds spent through PPP? http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/there-any-check-public-funds-spent-through-ppp-1181
There are many PPP projects in the infrastructure sector, like roads, ports, airports, power, water supply, irrigation and telecommunication (both in centre and state) which are working in an opaque manner. Earlier, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the planning commission, had opposed attempt to bring the PPPs under the ambit of the RTI Act claiming that it would inhibit private investment. For PPPs, the planning commission is the nodal body.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) had written to the planning commission in January 2011 seeking modifications within PPP agreements to enable disclosure of details related to infrastructure projects funded by the public money. It was opposed by the planning commission and the matter was referred to the law ministry. The seventh annual convention of CIC had debated the issue. http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/prime-minister-inaugurates-cic-annual-convention-r-2447
Ahluwalia clarified in March 2011 that “concession agreements are executed by the respective ministries and not by the planning commission. So far as the planning commission is concerned, it has published several model concession agreements (MCAs) for PPP projects. These MCAs provide for full disclosure of the concession agreement, the maintenance manual, the maintenance programme and maintenance requirements in respect of each project. Where an MCA is followed, any person can obtain certified copies of these documents from the respective concessionaires.” http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/public-private-partnership-ppp-monitoring-reports-1890
The DoPT circular says:
1.2 Public Private Partnerships
1.2.1 If Public services are proposed to be provided through a Public Private Partnership (PPP), all information relating to the PPPs must be disclosed in the public domain by the Public Authority entering into the PPP contract/concession agreement. This may include details of the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), if any set up, detailed project reports, concession agreements, operation and maintenance manuals and other documents generated as part of the implementation of the PPP project. The documents under the ambit of the exemption from disclosure of information under section 8(1)(d) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information; and 8(1)(j) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. of the RTI Act would not be disclosed suo motu. Further, information about fees, tolls, or other kinds of revenue that may be collected under authorization from the Government, information in respect of outputs and outcomes, process of selection of the private sector party may also be proactively disclosed. All payments made under the PPP project may also be disclosed in a periodic manner along with the purpose of making such payment.
The RTI activists have been fighting a long drawn battle for opening up the PPP projects to public but many such cases are now pending before the courts. The DoPT circular would hopefully bring them to an end and put up the entire gamut of such information before the public.