Is Haryana Urban Local Bodies favouring big contractors under Amrut?

1990

Allotment of works under the much-touted Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (Amrut) has come under criticism for award of works to handful of contractors on hefty rates.  The Haryana Urban Local Bodies Department has been entrusted to execute the prestigious AMRUT project, under the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in Haryana worth Rs.2800 crores.

In a memorandum to Haryana chief minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, Anti Corruption Forum of Haryana, a Karnal based NGO has alleged that the Urban Local Bodies has been allotting the works to a select few contractors at highly inflated rates which are around 25 percent higher than the rates being sanctioned by Haryana Public Health Engineering Department for equivalent projects executed by them. The memorandum says that this matter can be easily verified from the departmental records. It alleges that the issue of abnormally high rates has many a times been objected to by the officials of Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) during State Level Technical Committee meetings as recorded in minutes which are verifiable. Naturally the question arises as to when there already exists Haryana Directorate of Supplies and Disposals, which procures material at best rates through the High Powered Purchase Committee and is working efficiently, where was the need for allotting the works to select big contractors on a turn key basis?.

Ultimately because of these wrongs Public Health has disassociated itself from the meetings associated with allocation of works to contractors under AMRUT.

In fact Rajiv Arora, Additional Chief Secretary, Public Health, Haryana told Tehelka that “PHED will continue following the old procedures that we had been following in the past”. That makes it clear that Public Health Engineering Department, Haryana has shown wisdom to not to follow the ULBs. As such PHED would not squander public money by allotting works to a handful of contractors. A top engineer from the PHED Haryana too agreed to what Rajiv Arora opined and said that the department shall continue with the time tested policy of awarding works to direct suppliers than to handful of contractors on turn key basis.

The memorandum to the chief minister alleged that the ULB is being guided by a lobby of big contractors and smaller Detailed Notice Inviting Tender (DNIT) are being consolidated into 1-2 DNIT’s with financial prequalification’s which eliminate all local and small contractors thus leaving the field open only for big contractors who then quote inflated rates to bag contracts resulting in huge losses to the state exchequer running into hundreds of crores.

The memorandum mentions that the ULB department has deviated from the very effective and successful process of works execution carried out till today by the nodal department PHED.   The PHED in order to achieve faster and economical execution of water supply and sewerage projects has adopted a small package approach where in DNIT’s of smaller value are floated which qualifies local, small and medium scale contractors favoring the mission of “Swa-rozgar” promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The capital-intensive components of the projects consisting of pipes,  LG screens and cement are procured at competitive rates by state government through annual rates contract negotiated by High Powered  Purchase Committee headed by the State Finance Minister. Again the question arises as to when there already exists Haryana Directorate of Supplies and Disposals, which procures material at best rates through the High Powered Purchase Committee and is working efficiently, where was the need for allotting the works to select big contractors on a turn key basis?.

However, the ULB has adopted a reverse approach where in only large DNIT’s are being formulated to qualify only few large contractors. Even CVC guidelines have been flouted wherein works of Ambala and Sonipat were awarded against single bids to one large contractor. The memorandum alleges that the work was awarded at more than 25 per cent of the estimated rates in DNIT.

By deviating from the time-tested practice, the ULB is thus ensuring that pooled bids of only few favored contractors are received. It can be observed that not more than two bids have been received against DNIT’s floated since April 1, 2018 for approximately 8-10 tenders for AMRUT projects. The Anti Corruption Forum questioned as to what was preventing the ULB department to follow the tried, tested, economical and successful model of PHED.  The memorandum sent to the chief minister demands that the Urban Local Bodies department should be asked to explain about the elements responsible for this huge loss to the state and public money.

Copies of the memorandum have been sent to State Finance Minister, Urban Local Bodies Minister, Public Health Minister, Principal Secretary to the chief minister, Additional Chief Secretary for ULB, PHED, PWDB&R, CA, HSAMB and CA, Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikara, CA, HSAMB, MD, HSIIDC, Director, Supplies and Disposals, Engineer -in- Chief PHED, Engineer -in- Chief PWD B&R, Engineer -in- Chief HSAMB, CE, ULB, CE, HSVP, Kiran Chaudhary, Leader of CLP and others.