The UIDAI, which is entrusted with the task of preparing Aadhaar cards for all Indians, has been engaged in conflict with an RTI activist, accusing him of “misinterpreting” replies to Right to Information queries.
In a statement here on Wednesday, the UIDAI has refused contentions made by Mumbai-based RTI activist Anil Galgali-based on a UIDAI’s reply – that it had awarded Aadhaar card project works worth Rs.13,663 crore without soliciting tenders.
Speaking about the reports carried by media channels on 20 September, H.L. Verma, UIDAI’s deputy director (media), said, “We categorically state that this is a false statement made with mala fide intentions.”
The skewed presentation of information received under RTI without context and proper understanding of the facts is an attempt to tarnish the clean image of UIDAI, he added.
Verma explained that the total approved outlay for the UIDAI project is Rs.13,663.22 crore and it pays to the state government, public sector banks and public institutions only Rs.40 for each Aadhaar card for enrolment done by their agencies.
“UIDAI only does the empanelment of the enrolment agencies… the question of issuing any tender by UIDAI does not arise… It is the registrars who enter into contracts with the enrolments agencies…,” Verma pointed out.
To this, Galgali said, “In reply to my RTI query, the UIDAI’s Public Information Officer categorically stated that there is ‘no tendering process’. He did not clearly state this or mention that the works are carried out by various state governments and other agencies.”
Referring to UIDAI’s contention that the registrars were required to do open tendering for engaging enrolment agencies from those agencies who are already empanelled by it, Galgali said it was the UIDAI’s duty to explain this process or it should have been forwarded to concerned registrars for their response, as per Section 6(3) of the RTI Act, 2005.
“On its website, under the title ‘Contracts Awarded’ implies that these are contracts and not empanelment. The query sought details about contractors, but the reply on its link shows Contracts Awarded. This portrays incompetence of the UIDAI’s PIO to respond correctly to RTI queries,” Galgali added.
The UIDAI termed it as “miscomprehension and mala fide” alleging that 25 companies were given contracts without tendering and said its website lists all contracts awarded with tender documents, following the prescribed government norms.
Galgali also pointed out that the miscomprehension arose due to the vague nature of replies to simple, direct RTI queries submitted by him, and the fact that no tenders were issued for such huge Aadhaar card works remains hazy.