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Tender row casts shadow on ‘Nirbhaya Safe City Project’ in Bengaluru

Controversy erupted after Nimbalkar, also the chairperson of the authority vested with the power to invite tenders for the project, wrote to the chief secretary alleging that a woman officer had “impersonated as the home secretary” to seek classified information from a participating company.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru | Updated: December 28, 2020 8:09:50 am
Hemant Nimbalkar, the chairperson of the tender inviting/scrutiny authority for the Bengaluru Safe City Project addresses the media in Bengaluru (Express photo)

The continuing blame game between two Karnataka IPS officers has delayed government action on the tendering process for the ‘Nirbhaya Safe City’ Bengaluru project, which is worth in excess of Rs 600 crore.

The officers — Inspector General of Police and Additional Commissioner of Police (Admin) Hemant Nimbalkar and Inspector General of Police and Secretary to Government (Prison, Civil Defence and Auxiliary Services, Home Department) D Roopa — have issued statements blaming each other for irregularities linked to the project after which an internal inquiry was ordered.

Controversy erupted after Nimbalkar, also the chairperson of the authority vested with the power to invite tenders for the project, wrote to the chief secretary alleging that a woman officer had “impersonated as the home secretary” to seek classified information from a participating company which was drafting the tender. He also requested an inquiry, which resulted in the government appointing Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Kamal Pant as the investigating officer to look into the ‘illegal interference’ in the process.

“During my meeting with project consultants, I was told about a mail they received which impersonated Home Secretary of the state to get classified information on the Safe City project even before the tender was published,” Nimbalkar had mentioned in the letter dated December 7.

With the same being reported in certain sections of media, Roopa wrote to the chief secretary on December 25, accusing Nimbalkar of making a “false and motivated” complaint against her.

“Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), a Navaratna Govt PSU, was wrongly disqualified in the tender by the Tender Scrutiny Committee and the tender was sought to be given to a particular vendor. BEL complained to Prime Minister’s Office and this led to the cancellation of the biased tender,” she wrote. Raising the demand to “remove Nimbalkar from Safe City project and conduct an inquiry on the biased and unfair tender”, she sought government protection for being a whistle-blower. She claimed that Nimbalkar continues to head the tender-inviting and scrutiny committees “despite being charge-sheeted by the CBI in the Rs 4500-crore IMA scam.”

Roopa added that the project file was given to her by the additional chief secretary of the Home Department (Rajneesh Goel) to study. “While studying it, I found serious irregularities in tender drafting. In this context I spoke to Ernst & Young in my capacity as Home Secretary to ascertain more facts on the matter,” she said.

Responding to the allegations, Nimbalkar told reporters in Bengaluru on Sunday that claims of BEL being wrongly disqualified by the tender scrutiny authority was “far from truth”. He said BEL did not participate in the first call for tender on January 16, 2020, which was cancelled as all three participants failed to meet the pre-qualified requirements.

Also read | IPS officer D Roopa says ‘government has right to transfer officers

“The second call for tender on June 20 had accepted three bids, namely Larsen & Toubro, Matrix Security & Surveillance Private Ltd, and BEL. Claims that BEL was wrongly disqualified is thus proven to be absolutely false,” Nimbalkar said, adding that the second call was also cancelled due to the state government’s order banning Chinese-make/Chinese-origin products in the tender processes.

“Call-III of the tender for Safe City Project is in process in an absolutely transparent manner,” he said.

The RPF (request for proposal) for the Nirbhaya Safe City Project in Bengaluru includes the installation of 7,500 day/night surveillance cameras, 5,000 fixed cameras, 1,000 pan-tilt-zoom cameras, 1,000 automated number-plate recognition cameras, 500 facial recognition cameras, 20 drone-based surveillance cameras and 1,100 body-worn cameras. Other facilities to be provided, as per the Centre, are work stations for video feed monitoring and incidence management, command and control centres, data centres and GIS-based crime mapping for predictive policing, among others.

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