Railway University Gave Contract to Board Member's Company Despite Officials' Wariness: Report

Pramath Raj Sinha is the founder and managing director of 9dot9, which has been given a Rs 6 crore consultancy contract by the Railway University.

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New Delhi: A contract worth Rs 6 crore was recently awarded to a company run by businessman and educationist Pramath Raj Sinha by the ‘Railway University’, despite the fact that several officials had raised potential conflict of interest and propriety issues, Indian Express has reported. Sinha is on the management board of this same university, which is run by the Indian Railways.

The company 9dot9, of which Sinha is both founder and managing director, has been given a consultancy contract for the National Rail and Transportation Institute. The contract is worth Rs 65 lakh per month plus GST for nine months, the newspaper reported.

In written deliberations, according to the Indian Express, it is clear that Railways officials had flagged the possible conflict of interest and also pointed to the General Financial Rules, which deal with conflicts of interest in government consultancy contracts. These issues were flagged in both April and June 2021.

“The GFR provisions cited by officials specifically mandate that the consultant hired should strictly avoid conflicts with other assignments or his/its own corporate interests and acting without any consideration for future work,” the Indian Express reported. “The provisions say that it is a conflict of interest if the bidding firm or any of its affiliates are either involved in the consultancy contract to which procurement is linked.”

This is the second time one of Sinha’s companies has been given a contract by the institute he is on the board of. Last year, another company of which Sinha is founder and managing director – Harappa Education – got the contract to train Railway officials on management practices and artificial intelligence. Sources told the newspaper that around Rs 40 lakh has been released so far under that project.

Sinha was the founding dean of the Indian School of Business and is one of the founders and trustees of Ashoka University, Sonepat. When contacted by the Indian Express to ask about the potential conflict of interest, he directed the questions to Alka Arora Misra, interim vice-chancellor of NRTI. Misra told the newspaper that the contract followed all the rules and due process.