Are tenders worth crores being ‘auctioned manually’ in e-governed NMC?

Nagpur: With the dumping of Second Capital City of Nagpur from the coveted list of ‘Smart Cities,’ sarcastic words have started taking rounds. “Is this Smart City…….. No-not-never….” And for this sarcasm the major blame goes to shoddy affairs being run in Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC). For example, on one hand, the city’s own Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari craved for e-governance system in the civic body of their hometown for better services and on the other hand, ripping apart the e-governance system under the very nose or say, “in connivance,” of Municipal Commissioner, Mayor and other concerned, tenders are being ‘auctioned’, orally.

The NMC, a few years ago, deserted the manual system and introduced e-tendering system, for transparency. However, the NMC Contractors’ Welfare Association had other ‘nasty’ plans for ‘welfare and benefit of all.’ Accordingly, the contractors formed a “ring” to quote the tender rates through ‘mutual understanding’ and grab the tender at their price. Moreover, the name of the contractor going for e-tendering for any contract will be decided by one of the prominent office-bearers of the Association. The successful contractor will have to cough up one percent of estimated cost as the share of the Association. This way each and every contractor bagging the contracts would fill up the Association coffers and then the booty would be shared by other contractors but major share going to pockets of office-bearers. Now, situation has come to such a pass that the NMC’s e-tendering process is being ‘auctioned’ first among the contractors themselves in the special room assigned to the Association. The room, in a way, has allegedly become a ‘fixing den’ for the “ring” of NMC contractors, said sources.

For example, suppose e-tender for a Rs 20 lakh work is floated and for bagging the contract, 10 contractors tendered for it. After juggling with the figures of amount of estimate cost of the tender, a contractor willing to pay 10 percent or Rs 2 lakh to Association, only that contractor is allowed to bag the contract. In this manner, more or less each and every contractor bags a slew of contracts and the Association pockets a moolah, of course, to be shared among all the concerned parties, said sources.

However, not every contractor is part of the “Ring” of contractors. Such contractors who had participated in the tendering process neither are ‘cajoled’ to part of the ‘Ring.’ In the situation, there is virtual competition for bidding the tender and the contract generally goes to ‘below 20-30 percent.’ The shabby affairs are denting the NMC coffers and prospering the ‘Ring’ as well as contractors who are not part of it.

Interestingly, the Standing Committee, in recent days, issued work orders to the tune of Rs 100 crore. Of the Rs 100 crore works, 25 percent of tenders were contested and the remaining works of Rs 75 crore were allegedly ‘auctioned,’ orally. As a result, the Contractors Association, or say the prominent office-bearers, got richer by 1 percent or Rs 75 lakh.

Reliable sources informed that the process of e-tendering was introduced to get the impartial and fair quotes from the contractors bidding for the work. Sources opined that the contractors operating from single room cannot guarantee any ethical practice in the procedure.

Sources alleged that the contractors gathering in this room forms the ring by quoting the rates with mutual consent and the successful bidder is decided even before the tenders are officially opened. This has been causing huge dent in NMC’s treasure for quite long time.

-Rajeev Ranjan Kushwaha ( )