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Becoming ‘Smart’ Now Appears to be a Distant Dream for Port Blair City

Foul Play and Corruption to Favour Particular Firm Attracts Legal Notice for Andaman’s Administration

Port Blair, Sept 23: As the entire Islands eagerly wait for Smart City status for its capital ‘Port Blair’, foul play and corruption within the Andaman’s Administration, seems to have pushed the entire process back to square one.  Becoming ‘Smart’ now appears to be a distant dream for the citizens of Port Blair, with allegations of corruption and a legal notice slapped on the face of the Administration by one of the bidders. One of the bidders, a Chennai based engineering services company has claimed open violation of General Financial Rules (GFR) by the authorities in the Andaman’s Administration during the tendering process for appointment of Project Management Consultant (PMC). 

To refresh - the Council under the ‘Port Blair Smart City Projects Ltd’ has floated a tender for ‘Project Management Consultant (PMC) to Design, Develop, Manage and Implement Port Blair Smart City Project’. The tender happens to be the biggest tenders floated ever in the A&N Islands till date.

Several large national and multi-national companies had come forward to participate in the tender process, which surprisingly is the fourth time since 28th Dec. 2016 when Port Blair City was selected among the first list of cities to go smart.

The Government of India has drawn up an ambitious, Rs 10,000 crore plan to transform the Andaman and Nicobar Islands into the country's first maritime hub, taking advantage of its strategic location and making it the base for infrastructure that will include an expanded dry dock and ship repair industry in the capital Port Blair.  In fact, Port Blair Smart City Project is anticipated to be one of the biggest in the country considering the logistical issues of coordination between mainland India and the Islands.

Sensing the huge amount of tender, the concerned authorities in the Andaman’s Administration, while pretending to play safe have infact played foul to favour a particular company, which was already debarred from bidding in any such global tendering processes.

According to the legal notice served by the Chennai based company, a copy of which was reviewed by Andaman Chronicle, the complainant has alleged has alleged GFR rules were deliberately ignored to favour a particular firm which is a subsidiary of another firm, previously disqualified due to non fulfilment of eligibility criteria. The legal notice was served to the CEO, Port Blair Smart City Projects, Chief Secretary A&N Administration and Principal Secretary (Urban Development).

For a smooth and fast tendering process, the Govt. of India has appointed a Mission Director for heading the entire Port Blair Smart City project, which is chaired by Mr. K.R. Meena, IAS, Principal Secretary (Urban Development) and ably supported by the technical wing of Port Blair Municipal Council in coordination with the Consultant Selection Committee. Unfortunately, the legal notice has cleared that there is a nexus within this present committee to favour a company, disqualified by the same committee headed by different people earlier. 

The tender in question was floated on 3rd May 2018 as per which in a competitive process, minimum of three firms and generally not more than eight firms are required. However, the tender was cancelled after the concerned authorities stated that only two firms were found to be eligible. Subsequently, another tender was floated on 22nd August 2018. The complainant alleges that a pre-bid conference was held on 5th September following which queries of bidders were addressed only on 10th September in gross violation of GFR rules because the last date of submission of bids was 12th September. The complainant maintained that this was unfair, unjust and malafide since only a day’s time was given from the date of publishing the pre-bid clarifications.

The complainant has further alleged that all requests by around ten national and multi-national companies to extend the last date of submission were unheeded by the Smart City Mission Director, Shri K.R. Meena.

Subsequently, the complainant alleges that once again only two bidders participated (one less than the minimum three bids required as per the previous stand taken by the Smart City Mission Director) in the latest tender but this time to everyone’s surprise and amazement the Committee headed by Smart City Mission Director, Shri K.R. Meena decided to accept the bids in gross contravention of GFR rules as well as its own previous decision to not consider bids where three eligible bidders were not present. Threatening legal action the complainant has called upon the Andaman’s Administration to quash the tender dated 22nd August and call for fresh tenders. 

By the way things are moving within the Andaman’s Administration, the status of ‘Smart’ now seems to be a distant dream. It is also expected that if the allegations are found correct, the tender process may not only be quashed but a high level enquiry is ordered by the Government of India to investigate ‘corruption’ involved if any.

  • Written by Denis Giles
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