In a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on 20th March, ministry of external affairs puts the onus of the passport project on TCS; says it is bound to provide services in compliance with 27 stringent service level agreements
While the Master Service Agreement (MSA) is being kept a closely guarded secret despite it being a public document, Preneet Kaur, minister of state in the ministry of external affairs (MEA) has clearly stated in her reply in the Lok Sabha on 20th March, “n terms of the MSA, TCS is bound to provide services in compliance with 27 stringent Service Level Agreements.”
So, what are these 27 service level agreements that the TCS is bound by? Shalini Mathur, Project Head, of Passport Seva Kendra, TCS, in reply to this question states through an email, “I have requested the concerned department in the ministry to respond.”
However, the extensive reply by the minister in the Lok Sabha brings to light the comprehensive role of the TCS. Consider the following:
The responsibilities of the service provider (TCS, in this case) include the following:
a. All hardware, software, networking & PCs of the entire passport system as specified in the RFP (Request for Proposal) and the MSA (Master Service Agreement).
b. Physical infrastructure for all PSKs including interiors thereof, as specified in the RFP.
c. Data Centre (DC), Disaster Recovery Centre (DRC) and Central Passport Printing Facility (CPPF) set-up
d. Maintenance and operations of all the above
e. Staff for all private counters at PSKs
f. Technical staff for supporting PSK, PO, DC, DRC, CPPF
g. Training on the application software, training on general computer skills, soft skills, and customer service & delivery
h. Change management and communication strategy & implementation
i. Obtaining ISO (9001, 27001, 20000) certifications for the Passport System
j. Compliance with the Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
k. Call Centre & grievance handling
The MSA includes clauses relating to governance schedule, use and control of PSKs, security and safety, terms of payment, taxation, breach, rectification and termination, protection and limitations, data protection, confidentiality, audit, access and reporting, intellectual property, trademarks/publicity, severability & waiver, dispute resolution, change control, exit management and terms of payment.
A project of this magnitude where nearly 30,000 passport applications are processed daily by the personnel manning the PSKs and many more thousand citizens are attended to by Call Centres, cannot be without operational relations challenges. In terms of the MSA, TCS is bound to provide services in compliance with 27 stringent Service Level Agreements. A Grievance Redressal mechanism is in place as part of the Programme Governance Structure. Whenever a complaint is received, it is redressed forthwith in consultation with the heads of PSKs, RPOs and TCS. The government has clearly delineated the role of TCS staff in the System for its smooth functioning.
Following a two bid process, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) was selected as service provider in May 2008 for implementation of Passport Seva Project. A Master Service Agreement (MSA) was signed by the MEA with TCS on 13 October 2008. TCS would recover its cost through service charge per passport based on volumes and subject to 27 stringent service delivery levels. These service delivery levels encompass various parameters such as external and internal efficiency; external, internal and technical effectiveness; environment and ambience and customer relations. The achievement and sustenance of these service levels requires a holistic approach to service delivery and optimization across technology, business process and people on a continuous basis.
This IT driven project is run with over 3,000 persons deployed from the private service provider and 2,500 officials from the MEA. The project runs on the Build-Own-Operate-Transfer model wherein the initial investments are by the private partner. There is minimal investment from the government.
Only front-end activities, such as token issuance, initial scrutiny of the application forms, acceptance of fee, scanning of the documents, taking photos and biometrics are performed by the service provider’s staff. The sovereign and fiduciary functions such as verification of documents, police verification, decision on grant of passports, revocation, impounding of passports, printing and dispatch of passports, are performed by the government personnel.
Kaur concluded that, “The agreement with TCS to operate and maintain the Passport Seva System is valid till 11 June 2018 with provision for its renewal for further two years. The government, therefore, is in no position at present to indicate any future course of action as regards renewal or cancellation of the agreement.”