Nagpur Today impact: NMC puts ‘blanket ban’ on auctioning of tenders manually

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Nagpur: Acting swiftly on Nagpur Today expose and subsequently putting a “blanket ban” on auctioning of tenders manually, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation seems to have resorted to damage-control exercise. The scenario in the civic body was not less than an upheaval the moment Nagpur Today flashed a report titled “Are tenders worth crores being ‘auctioned manually’ in e-governed NMC?”

The damning report forced the top officials and office-bearers to huddle and act in a damage-control exercise and curb the dubious practice of ‘auctioning of the tenders manually’ at the behest of contractors’ ring, at least for present. It is learnt that e-tenders for different works to the tune of Rs 9 crore were floated sans the “boli.” The corrective action, if true, might have deprived the NMC contractors’ association or ‘ring’ illegal money in lakhs. At the same time, the corrective action might have filled up the NMC coffers to some extent.

The explosive Nagpur Today report seems to have played a positive role and at the same time emboldened the contractors who had refused to a part of the ‘ring.’ The contractors vociferously opposed the practice of ‘auction’ of tenders and forced the NMC administration to float the nine tenders competitively. The initiative on the part of the ‘honest’ contractors certainly ‘profited’ the NMC so some extent as till now, the NMC contractors’ ring was ‘managing’ the tenders by fixing the estimated cost and thus denting coffers of the civic body, stated the sources.

Tender Cell:
An office-bearer of NMC Contractors Welfare Association or the ‘Ring,’ while talking to Nagpur Today on the condition of anonymity, said that the Association, through a letter sent to a top official, has strongly demanded setting up of a Tender Cell. Taking the seriously, the official reportedly forwarded the letter to the higher authorities.

If Tender Cell is formed, sources said, the practice of “managing’ the tenders will get strengthened. At present, officials of different departments float tenders for their respective works. If Tender Cell is set up then the officials will have to first forward their respective tenders to this so-called Tender Cell making it the powerful authority to float tenders and ‘manage’ them, too. Now, it is to be seen whether the NMC Administration buckles to the idea of setting up Tender Cell or shows interest in saving the revenue of cash-strapped civic body.

It is pertinent to recall that the Nagpur Today report, flashed recently, had stated ‘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……’

– RAJEEV RANJAN KUSHWAHA (rajeev.nagpurtoday@gmail.com )