The Kerala government has constituted a second committee to review the controversial Sprinklr deal with almost the same terms of reference set for the first expert committee led by M Madhavan Nambiar, the former Information Technology special secretary to the government of India.
Apart from asking the new committee to re-investigate the Sprinklr deal, the government has also asked it to do something unprecedented: Analyse the report submitted by the Madhavan Nambiar Committee. A clear sign the Pinarayi Vijayan government was not happy with the report, which has not been made public.
The second Sprinklr expert committee has been formed just a month after the first committee submitted its as yet unpublished report. This has given rise to suspicions that the government wants any blot that had fallen on the deal to be removed. The LDF government had consistently maintained that the deal was struck as an urgent measure at a time of an unprecedented health scare.
The government had initially said that the Sprinklr software could pick up COVID trends in the community and therefore would help in formulating quick disease prevention strategies. As it turned out, the software was unsuitable for COVID-19 response and was, therefore, left unused. The government also decided not to extend the contract with Sprinklr.
The Madhavan Nambiar report had found procedural irregularities in the Sprinklr deal. The report had said that the deal was struck without taking the Law Department's counsel. Highly placed sources said that the committee had also revealed that the personal data of 1.8 lakh citizens were handed over to Sprinklr.
Nonetheless, the report did not find this alarming. It said the data handed over were not sensitive ones, merely information about illnesses like fever and vomiting. The two-member committee had also interrogated Sprinklr's Malayali CEO Ragi Thomas.
The second Sprinklr committee will be a three-member team with K Sasidharan Nair, former District Judge and former Secretary of the Kerala Law Department as Chairman. The two expert members of the team are: A Vinaya Babu, retired professor Computer Science & Engineering, JNTUH College of Engineering, Hyderabad and Umesh Divakaran, Professor, Computer Science and Technology, College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram.
An order constituting the three-member committee was issued by Chief Secretary Vishwa Mehta on November 23.
Here are the areas the Sasidharan Nair committee has been asked to look into. One, whether the procedures laid down in the Rules of business of the Government of Kerala have been followed while signing the Agreement/ Purchase Order?
Two, whether lapses, which cannot be justified in the extraordinary circumstances prevailing while entering into the Agreement/purchase order, have occurred?
Three, what are and what could have been the measures taken to ensure data security at various periods?
Four, what were the procedures to be followed, apart from those that have been followed, for the Agreement/purchase order for obtaining services?
Five, analyse the report submitted by the Committee headed by Madhavan Nambiar.
Six, suggest guidelines to be followed in future.
Except for the third terms of reference (measures to be taken to ensure data security) and a review of the first report, the rest were part of the terms of reference of the Madhavan Nambiar committee.
According to the chief secretary, here is why a second committee had to be constituted: "Government is of the view that a detailed examination by experts in legal, administrative and Information Technology domain is required on many aspects on which the Committee has not offered its comments in the report."