CORPORATORS cutting across party lines on Wednesday rejected a proposal to award a contract for supplying software to the Assessment and Collection department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to the second lowest bidder. The five-year contract is worth Rs 9.9 crore.
While the civic administration argued that the contractor who had quoted the lowest price was blacklisted by the Amravati Municipal Corporation (AMC), due to which the second lowest bidder is being considered instead, members of the Standing Committee accused the civic officials of having a contradictory stand regarding awarding contracts to blacklisted contractors.
The BMC had floated tenders to replace the existing contractor responsible for the maintenance of software used for assessing property tax as well as settling disputes. However, after the financial bids were opened, the civic body came to know that Cybertech Systems and Software, the lowest bidder, had been blacklisted by the AMC. Even though the Nagpur bench has granted a stay on the blacklisting order, the civic body put up a proposal of considering the second lowest bidder, Vidarbha Infotech Private Limited, in order to set a precedent of not hiring blacklisted contractors.
Corporators, however, said the discrepancy in the BMC’s stand on the issue in reference to past cases. Samajwadi Party corporator and group leader Rais Shaikh referred to the reconstruction of the Hancock bridge, the contract of which was granted to a tainted contractor last year. “At that time, the then additional municipal commissioner, Sanjay Deshmukh, had argued that the contractors who had been awarded the contract were yet to be blacklisted. The administration’s stand in this case will give leverage to the contractors who are fighting cases in various courts, including the case of Hancock bridge, which is pending in the Supreme Court. The only solution should have been to refloat the tender all over again,” he said. Other corporators questioned the need for opening the financial bid in the first place.
BJP group leader Manoj Kotak said: “When the technical bid was opened, it should have been clear that the contractor was not eligible. Then why was the financial bid opened at all? Something doesn’t add up and I would even go on to say that the administration is trying to support the second lowest bidder.” He said there is a difference of Rs 3.06 crore between the lowest and the second lowest bidder. Defending the civic administration, Additional Municipal Commissioner Vijay Singhal said: “We came to know that he had been blacklisted by another municipal corporation only after we opened the financial bids.”
The leader of the house and Shiv Sena corporator Yashwant Jadhav as well as leader of the Opposition and Congress corporator, Ravi Raja, insisted that the Assessment Department should have sought legal opinion on the matter. “If the department concerned came to know that the contractor was blacklisted, they should have immediately sought the opinion of the Advocate General of India before putting up the proposal,” said Jadhav.