The embarrassment of corruption allegations in floating tenders seems to be unending for the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government. After many instances of being forced to cancel e-tenders, recently the Highways Department had to cancel an e-tender worth Rs 494 crore. An anti corruption body, Arappor Iyakkam (API) has alleged foul play between the official machinery and a few firms for ‘fixing tenders’.
The organisation complained to the secretaries of Finance and Highways on the winners of the bid, even before the bids were opened for scrutiny in November 2020. The organisation has also demanded a detailed enquiry by the Department of Vigilance and Anti corruption (DVAC) on the repeated instances of violation of rules in allocation tenders.
HIGHWAYS CANCELS E-TENDER AFTER ALLEGATION
The Department of Highways, under the control of the Chief Minister, Edappadi K Palaniswami has cancelled a tender of Rs 494 crore allocated to JSV Infra for maintenance of roads in Thanjavur sub division after the API emailed a complaint with the possible winners of the bid even before the bid was opened by the authorities, which turned out to be correct.
Jayaram Venkatesan, convenor of the API, told NewsClick, “We have always alleged that the e-tenders are prefixed by the government officials and the specific bidders. Along with this tender, another tender worth Rs 656 crore was also being fixed. There is no confidentiality as claimed by the Chief Minister in the e-tenders.”
The CM repeatedly has claimed that the participants are unknown to any of the government officials and has rejected the claims of the e-tenders being fixed. But the API proved it otherwise, citing the conditions in the tenders.
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“The payment of the earnest money deposit (EMD) for bidding is made through demand draft and not online. The mandatory submission of hardcopy of bid documents and the machinery certificate to be obtained will disclose the bidders to the officials. So, there is no confidentiality existing in the process as claimed by the officials,” added Jayaram.
While a new tender is being floated by the department, the API has expressed scepticism regarding any improvement from the part of the government.
‘CONTRACT RENAMED AND SPLIT TO MISLEAD’
Earlier in July 2020, API flagged the same issue, in which a single tender was floated for the same work for Rs 1,190 crore. The organisation demanded the tender be cancelled citing the conditions of the roads which did not require any repairing works.
In a detailed statement, the API alleged massive corruption and colossal misuse of taxpayers’ money. The statement further added that the “performance based maintenance contract for Thanjavur – Phase I & II for Rs 1,947 crore for five years is given a cost estimate of Rs 2.33 crore per km while all the seven past performance based maintenance contracts (PBMC) floated had a cost of Rs 60 lakh to Rs 1.3 crore per km.
The same contract was split into two and was categorised as AB-CRISM (Area based comprehensive road improvements, strengthening and maintenance). The API has demanded the state government to cancel the tender and initiate departmental and criminal proceedings against those involved.
COLLUSION IN SANCTIONING TENDERS
The organisation has also flagged many other tenders in Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), Coimbatore Corporation and Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) and department of local administration.
In another instance, the GCC recently floated a tender for lighting the street for Pongal after the festival is over. “The GCC issued the tender for Rs 6.5 lakh for an event in K K Nagar park after the event was over. The tender was floated three days after the event was over. Such violations are not a rarity in GCC,” Jayaram pointed out.
The organisation has found that several tenders had not more than two bidders belonging to the same family. Incidents of henchmen being deployed to prevent others from submitting the EMD DD was also reported, said API.
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“The worst case scenario is from Coimbatore Corporation, where the only two bids submitted for a work were submitted from the same IP address. The first bid was by one Anbarasan, brother of local administration minister S P Velumani and the other bidder being a staff of his company. In the corporation records, both bidders have the same contact number,” he further alleged.
The state government had faced backlash when the Union government ordered the cancellation of tenders for the Bharatnet project in June 2020. The major allegation against the AIADMK government is rampant corruption, which the opposition parties have repeatedly raised. The Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leadership have also submitted a list of corruption charges against the ministers in the state. However, the state government, despite the repeated instances of allegations, seems to be turning a blind eye to the charges so far.