Published On : Wed, Sep 20th, 2017

Tainted contractor “manages” to save Patansaongi Toll Plaza contract but at a price

Nagpur: The tainted Mumbai-based contractor Pravin Pandey who had found himself in hot soup for failure to submit mandatory bank guarantee to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) towards toll collection at Patansaongi-based toll plaza has managed to save his contract but at a price. The contractor has been fined Rs 11 lakh for delayed submission of bank guarantee. A fax message received by Nagpur Division of NHAI from Delhi-based Headquarters on Tuesday (September 19) evening says the contractor Pandey would continue to operate the Patansaongi Toll Plaza till further orders.

Notably, Nagpur Today had run a series of reports exposing the sordid episode in which Nagpur Division of NHAI was cornered for permitting the contractor operate the toll plaza without submission of mandatory bank guarantee. Jolted by the Nagpur Today report, the NHAI authorities had embarked on massive cover-up to save their skin. Instead of forcing the errant contractor to submit bank guarantee, the NHAI Divisional office had put the ball in Delhi-based Headquarters’ court saying the bank guarantee issue is handled by the Delhi bosses.

Acting on the revealing reports being published by Nagpur Today, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had initially cancelled the contract of a Mumbai-based contractor who was found collecting toll at Patansaongi Toll Plaza on Saoner Road without submitting bank guarantee. The NHAI bosses at Delhi Headquarters viewed the matter seriously and cancelled the contract of tainted contractor Pravin Pandey who in “connivance” of Divisional babus was running the toll plaza “illegally.”

The NHAI had not only cancelled the contract but also floated a fresh tender for appointing a new contractor to run the Patansaongi Toll Plaza on Nagpur-Saoner-Betul Section of NH-69. September 11 was the last date for interested contractors to participate in the tender process. The tender was opened on September 12 for a period of three months. It is learnt that many reputed companies participated in the tender process. Two companies qualified on the basis of financial bid. It is further learnt that Nagpur’s Khadatkar Company bagged the contract for highest bid. But the work order was not issued to the company. Moreover, contract of the old operator was also not cancelled.

According to information, the current contractor Pandey has not remitted Rs 4.65 lakh collected at toll plaza from September 5 to 19 with Nagpur Division office of NHAI. Pandey reportedly used this money for payment of bank guarantee with NHAI headquarters 2-3 days ago. This exercise is aimed at saving his contract, it is learnt.

It may be further recalled that agitated on the issue, Congress MLA Sunil Kedar, whistleblower in the case, had written letters to the officials of NHAI and Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, Chairman, NHAI, Deepak Kumar, D.O. Tawade , member (technical), Rajnesh Kapoor, G.M.(C.O.) and Rohit Singh, member (finance).

In the letter, Kedar had mentioned that in case no action taken against the contractor, he will be moving to court for the same. “It’s been history in NHAI that a contractor had been awarded as well as the agreement had been signed without the submission of Bank Guarantee. Either the contractor must be having a strong liaisoning with the respective officials or strong potential influences which mandated the officials to adapt this wrong practice for the same”, read the letter.

“Why this special provision has been made for this contractor only, as it’s never been done that without the B.G. submission toll had been awarded to any contractor, it’s nearly more than a month the toll is functional till date and no Bank Guarantee confirmation has been done”, Kedar had written in his letter to Gadkari.

“The entire previous contractor had submitted the Bank Guarantee before signing the agreement for Patansaongi toll plaza under Nagpur PIU Previously. So why this contractor whose prequalification as per the information on website shows list of Application received as on 23.08.2017 as per new RFQ dated 22.08.2016 shows on 56 no. that his “Prequalification Kept In abeyance” till further orders”, he had added in the letter.

He also mentioned that the amount of bank guarantee is Rs 1,39,17,000, which has not been submitted to NHAI. Pandey is not depositing the remittance to NHAI regularly on weekly basis. On the other side, Pandey claims that he had been following the rules and has undergone a loss of as high as Rs. 2 crores and has thus decided to approach court for justice.