TODAY -

Foul cry raised in appointment of contractors
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, November 22 2023: There have been huge "irregularities" in the Social Welfare Department's tender process for appointment of contractors for transportation of rice and micronutrients from State godowns which warrant a proper probe by Central investigation agencies, claimed highly reliable sources.

The tender for appointment of contractors/transporters first floated during 2020-21 continued afresh in 2022 is marred with irregularities, said the sources.

The contractors are to transport rice and micronutrients to various offices of Child Development Project Officers under Centrally sponsored scheme Integrated Child Development Programme from State godowns.

For 16 routes, a firm had to deposit Rs 80,000 as tender fee (Rs 5000 per route) .

Significantly, the High Court of Manipur had intervened in the tender process initiated by the High Power Tender Committee of the Social Welfare Department during 2020-21 after separate writ appeals were filed by some transport firms.

Moreover, the transport firms had also sought the intervention of the Supreme Court on the same issue relating to a dispute in the rate quotation of transportation of rice.

As a result, the apex Court had then directed the State Social Welfare Department to allow the transporter firms to lift and transport rice and micronutrients at the quotation rate of upto Rs 7 per MT per Kilometre as an interim arrangement.

In a separate judgement order in 2022, the Supreme Court also directed the Department to initiate a fresh tender with fresh terms and conditions in the interest of the public within a period of 45 days.

In compliance with the Supreme Court's directives, the Social Welfare Department issued a notice inviting tender on September 2, 2022 for appointment of contractors for transportation of rice and micronutrients.

A total of 14 firms applied, and the Social Welfare Department enlisted 6 firms--New UP Bihar Orissa Road Line, NE Logistic, M/s Jain Hanuman, M/s Soraisam Enterprises, M/s Transking Carrier Pvt Ltd and M/s Radika Express Service which were found technically qualified.

Of the six, four firms--M/s Jain Hanuman, M/s Soraisam Enterprises, M/s Transking Carrier Pvt Ltd and M/s Radika Express Service were found that they had not deposited the total amount of tender fees (Rs 80,000) to the Department while the other two firms, New UP Bihar Orissa Road Line and NE Logistic were found to have deposited the entire tender fees for all 16 routes.

This as the Department in its September 30, 2022 corrigendum had categorically stated that the appointed firms must submit the tender fees of Rs 5000 each for a route without fail.

For 16 routes, each firm was to deposit Rs 80,000 as tender fee.

Even though the New UP Bihar Orissa Road Line and NE Logistic were found qualified with the entire fees deposited, these two firms were not appointed as transport contractors, which raised concern about alleged violation of the tender guidelines by the evaluation committee of the Social Welfare Department, said the sources.

Interestingly, the sources said the Tender Evaluation Committee on August 8, 2022 had issued a warning for blacklisting a qualified Guwahati based firm for submitting low rate quotation for transportation of rice at Rs 3.90 per MT per Km and accusing it of "trying to sabotage the tender process.

Sources said the Tender Evaluation Committee's warning mentioned that "District Programme Officers/Child Development Project Officers of the Social Welfare Department in its meeting held on December 16, 2017 had already decided that the L1 quoted rates which varied from Rs 4.10 per MT per Km to Rs 5.11 per MT per Km were unrealistically low rate for transportation" .

On the other hand, the Tender Evaluation Committee of the State Social Welfare Department while violating its own decision, approved and appointed another firm which levied L1 quoted rate of Rs 4.39 per MT per Km less than Rs 5.11 rate for 10 out of 16 routes which the committee said was low.

This, the sources said, was in violation of the proceedings of December 16, 2017 of the High Power Tender Committee.

Above this, the firm that has been appointed had not submitted the full tender fee during the initial stage of bidding, added the sources.

The "unfair" tender process has caused huge losses to the State's exchequer amounting to crores of rupees.

Central investigation agencies should be brought in to probe the irregularities, they said.


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