Vijayawada: Defying chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s instructions on fair tendering, the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) has invited bids for a Rs 95-crore drinking water pipeline project with conditions allegedly tailor-made to favour one particular contractor.
The changes made to the tender process were allegedly aimed at hoodwinking judicial scrutiny, which was introduced by the chief minister to ensure transparency in contracts.
Inquiries by Deccan Chronicle revealed that an influential YSR Congress leader, considered a de facto authority over Visakhapatnam as well as the north coastal Andhra Pradesh, was behind the formation of a cartel to corner the tender.
As per the shadowy agreement, of all the companies which evince an interest in the bid, only three would qualify in the technical round; and thanks to the formation of a cartel, the contractor chosen by the ruling party leader would get the tender in spite of the reverse tendering process followed for the contract.
The state's Municipal Administration and Urban Development Department accorded administrative sanction for the project in December last year. The project involves laying drinking water pipelines in different areas in three packages worth Rs 45 crore, Rs 32.4 crore and Rs 39 crore.
The GVMC, however, decided to combine all packages and called for a single tender, though there was neither any contiguity of the work areas nor administrative convenience.
The value of the tender was initially estimated to be worth Rs 116 crore. But it was pegged at Rs 94.41 crore because it would have come under judicial scrutiny if the cost was over Rs 100 crore.
As part of the reforms brought about to the tendering process through GO Ms No. 67, the Jagan Mohan Reddy government had said that “the restriction clause like registration in Andhra Pradesh may be relaxed. Joint venture as well as a memorandum of understanding [between civil contractors or contracting firms] with combined bid capacity may be encouraged to ensure larger participation.”
However, as per the tender document of GVMC, “civil contractors/contracting firms having registration with the government of Andhra Pradesh are only eligible” to bid and “bids from joint ventures are not allowed.”
The document containing clarifications issued for pre-bid queries by GVMC is self-explanatory. A company requested the civic body to allow joint ventures as per GO Ms 67, while another company wanted it to consider companies registered anywhere in the country for better competition. But the civic body rejected both requests.
The civic body also allegedly manipulated other tender conditions.
It wanted the contractor to have experience of laying different sizes of pipes for a particular length or distance to meet the technical eligibility criteria. For all components, GVMC insisted that the agency should have the experience of laying the exact size of the pipe which is to be laid in the proposed project. But when it came to laying of 1500 mm and 1000 mm dia pipes at railway, road and canal crossings using trenchless technology, the GVMC was fine with the contractor’s experience of laying 800 mm dia pipe.
The GVMC was also selective in accepting requests made by contractors to relax bid conditions. Three companies asked GVMC to remove the clause of previous experience of black-top pavements to encourage more companies to participate. The GVMC agreed to all their requests.
When contacted, municipal administration and urban development minister Botcha Satyanarayana said he would bring the discrepancies, if any, to the notice of GVMC and ask them to make changes accordingly.
GVMC commissioner Srijana chose to not respond to the queries of Deccan Chronicle. So too chief engineer Venkateswara Rao.