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May 6, 2019

Bidders see irregularities in awardof Ramazan Bazaar contract


May 6, 2019

LAHORE: The office of the deputy commissioner cancelled the tender worth Rs 140 million called for establishing Ramazan bazaars in the provincial metropolis, and under the emergency provisions shortlisted and awarded the same tender to five companies.

Majority of the bidders who participated in the tender, which was cancelled, alleged that the entire practice was based on mala fide intention of the DC office as well as it was to oblige the blue-eyed contractors. They said that deputy commissioner was informed about the issue but no action was taken.

The notice issued by the office of DC office read that the tender issued to newspapers on April 14, 2019 and published on PPRA website on April 17, 2019 was cancelled due to administrative reasons. It read that the procurement process was carried out under 59D/3 PPRA Rules under the orders of the authority concerned. According to the notice, six companies were shortlisted. Later, one of these companies was also thrown out of the tender. Sources alleged that later another company was “accommodated” in the tender due to the request of a senior officer posted in DC office.

It is pertinent to mention here the DC office cancelled the tender on April 26, 2019 but on April 27, 2019, Saturday, the bidders who participated in the cancelled tender received telephone calls from the DC office to come up with bank statements, CDR and other financial documents to participate in the tender and later when some bidders raised objections that Saturday was a bank holiday so they could provide financial documents so they were asked to deposit cross cheques.

Sources said later all those who deposited cross cheques were disqualified due to absence of financial documents. Sources said the same situation occurred in similar tenders issued in Sahiwal, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur and Jhang where the bidders protested due to which prequalification process was done on Monday (April 29, 2019). The bidders questioned why the process in Lahore was not shifted to Monday?

Zahid Ansari, an overseas Pakistani, lodged a complaint regarding the issue to the office of Punjab chief minister and the copies of the complaint were sent to the chief secretary and PPRA authorities. He said the complaint was also lodged at the citizen’s web portal introduced by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In his complaint, he said PPRA rules had been violated by the office of deputy commissioner, Lahore, in awarding the tender for the supply of various items on rent, purchase and for repair for the establishment of Ramazan bazaars.

“The tender is worth Rs 200 million, therefore, it must be scrutinised with due diligence to safeguard public funds. As per the Public Procurement Regularity Authority Ordinance Guidelines, all contracts must adhere strictly to exhibit transparency. The aforesaid contract was not awarded on a transparent and competitive basis. Rather it was awarded to firms of choice. PPRA provision 59 D (3) was invoked declaring an emergency,” Zahid Ansari said.

He said, “We ask that you force DC Lahore to disclose the foresaid emergency as per the PPRA guidelines and under Right to Information Act. If this emergency came by an executive order by your office, then please advise why DC’s Officefailed to inform the prospective bidders in a timely manner? Several firmswere knocked out on technical and financial grounds by not allowing proper time to submit their quotations/bids.”

He said in the complaint, “This matter calls for your attention and we ask that you investigate, rectify and disclose the corrupt and illegal practices within a reasonable time frame. We would knock at your door first before pleading this abuse of power in a court of law. We have voted for change only to change the corruption culture which had been the paradigm of previous government. Your attention and quick response is the key to further proceed on this matter.”

He said that the objections that stood out loud, clear and documented included the tender notice was advertised in a national daily on April 14, 2019 and also PPRA website on April 17, 2019, respectively.

The same tender notice was cancelled by the DC office on April 26, 2019. No newspaper advertisement or any other method was ever used to inform the prospective bidders. Only those bidders were informed who were the “accomplices” of the administrative staff. On Saturday, April 26, 2019, a quotation notice was posted and circulated somewhere in the DC office, informing the bidders/suppliers to submit their price list by April 27, 2019.

He said, “A phone call from the DC office (0429921101) was made at 1:15pm at my firm’s phone informing to submit bid by 3:00pm. It should be noted, the banks were closed on Saturday, April 27, 2019, making it virtually impossible for us to attach bank statements and CDR to be in compliance.

By using this discriminatory tactic, most bidders were knocked out on technical and financial grounds as there was no time given to them to prepare and submit the documents. The same day, i.e. April 27, an unsolicited public announcement in Urdu was printed on a blank piece of paper (with no letterhead) on which six companies were shortlisted.”

The complainant said, “We demand that the circumstances invoked to justify extreme urgency must be made public under Right to Information Act 2013. The prospective bidders should have been given ample time to submit their bids on an equal opportunity basis. All facts, as it happened, with timeline are laid down in this letter.

We seek justice and want a truthful inquiry to this so called operational emergency that violated the basic rights to participate and compete in a fair and transparent manner.” He called for holding a transparent inquiry into the issue. When contacted, a spokesperson for the DC office, Imran Mqbool, said that the tender was cancelled due to the instructions of the Punjab government, which demanded establishment of Ramazan bazaars from Shaban 25.

He said due process was followed in cancelation of the tender and shortlisting of the companies under emergency provisions. He added that 11 companies gave quotations out of which five were shortlisted.

He also said that rates quoted by the successful bidders were also properly announced after the bidding process was completed. He maintained that those who didn’t get their names shortlisted were raising allegations and lodging baseless complaints.