The curious case of the public sector showcase

Shyamal Majumdar writes in Busines Standard:

“The Mumbai branch-head of a navratna public sector company wanted to replace a 10-year-old wooden showcase with something that occupied lesser space. He wanted to just dismantle the showcase, but stopped after his veteran secretary suggested that he should at least inform the administration department in Delhi.

“The administration head asked him to send a formal letter detailing the reasons for his inclination to get rid of the showcase. That is required, he was told, as none of his predecessors had any problem with it.

“Two months after the sending the letter, the branch head was told that inspections by the local administration and accounts staff showed that the book value of the showcase was Rs 1,900, and that he should ask for quotations from at least three interested buyers and send them for approval.

“The process of getting quotations took a long time, as the branch head found it difficult to get anybody interested in the rickety showcase. After much coaxing and cajoling, he managed three quotations from local furniture shops. The highest quotation was for Rs 700.

“The documents were despatched to Delhi immediately and the branch head hoped his ordeal was over. But, it took the headquarters another two months to send him a letter informing him that the quotations were considered too low by an eight-member purchase/disposal committee and he should advertise in a local newspaper asking for fresh quotations, according to office rules.

“The advertisements elicited four responses and, this time, the highest bid was for Rs 850. The branch head was told that the purchase/disposal committee was preoccupied with other work and he would have to wait for his turn. The approval came after three months.

“In the meantime, the owner of the furniture shop who was the highest bidder lost interest in buying the stuff. The branch head says he paid the money himself and somehow convinced the gentleman to give him a receipt. The showcase was broken down by the office boys as there were no takers.

“The branch head says he is unable to figure out why it took the eight members of the committee so long to decide on something that yielded the company just Rs 850. “The company spent much more on courier charges alone,” says the young man.”

Read the full story: Have time, will waste