Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Jun 10, 2002
Industry & Economy
UN project management arm keen to do business in India
NEW DELHI, June 9
HOW many of you are aware of UNOPS? Very few, perhaps, although the name could suggest that it is yet another UN organisation. The unfamiliarity should not be surprising. For, unlike the United Nations and its other more renowned affiliates, UNOPS came into being as recently as 1995 through a General Assembly agreement of the member-countries.
Set up as a non-profit organisation, the United Nations Office for Project Services is an instrument of the UN system for quality, flexible and cost-effective management of development projects. It provides specialised services relating to information technology, mine action, rehabilitation, procurement of materials, equipment and services, training, human resource management and even governance.
According to Dr Sunil Bhargava, UNOPS chief, Asia & Pacific, who was here recently on a scouting mission for business with various State Governments as also to assess the procurement business potential of India Inc, the UN organisation offers the international development community and Governments a broad range of such services ranging from overall project management to provision of single inputs.
Essentially, UNOPS manages and implements project resources to help developing nations and countries in transition in their quest for social stability, economic growth and sustainable development. In this regard, he says that since procurement of various items, materials and equipment turns out to be a major chunk of the job, it is here that Indian corporates can tap a huge business potential as suppliers.
In a conversation with Business Line, Dr Bhargava revealed that UNOPS' Asia office located in Kuala Lumpur the largest outside New York has so far managed more than 346 projects funded by UN programmes in 26 countries in Asia and the Pacific, including India.
Annually, it administers and supervises over 40 projects funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in 17 countries, which involve a total loan value of about $1 billion. And till now, the Asia office itself has delivered goods and services worth $187.7 million for various programmes.
Talking about core competencies, he said that while UNOPS is a specialised entity for the management and execution of projects of various types, its Asia office is the only one in the entire UN system with professional staff who are certified project management professionals (PMPs).
Its other strength lies in the procurement of goods, equipment and commodities in the national and international markets. With a client-centred approach placing the customer's needs first, Dr Bhargava said that the UNOPs' Asia office formulates specifications, identifies suppliers, calls for and evaluates bids in accordance with international competitive bidding (ICB) norms, awards and signs contracts. Further, it arranges for transport, customs clearance and duty-free delivery, ensures record-keeping for all transactions and provides financial reports and inventories of goods.
The comparative advantages of dealing with UNOPs, among other things, he said were the transparency and fairness as it represents no commercial or national interests and follows internationally accepted procedures for competitive selection of consultants, contractors and supplies. This always ensures that the process is bias-free. The other is `Value for money' as the organisation works on a no-profit basis and it has access to global markets, which enables it to offer the best prices.
In this regard, Dr Bhargava expressed happiness that during his last visit to the country, scores of Indian corporates got themselves registered with UNOPS as potential suppliers of various commodities and equipment for its procurement services.
"That's heartening...the scores of registrations and overwhelming enquiries. For, apart from farm commodities, for a country of India's size, there are companies which can make quality supplies of items ranging from pins to power plants," Dr Bhargava said.
But was quick to add: "That's a cause for concern too, for too many poses problems also. Sometime ago, an Indian supplier passed the sample test, but delivered goods of inferior quality. And, when the consignment was rejected, the supplier demanded 50 per cent payment. Obviously, that's not on."
Is India Inc listening?
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