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Friday, September 24, 2021

Delhi: MHA recommends preliminary enquiry by CBI into DTC low-floor bus deal

On July 21, The Indian Express had reported that files related to the deal were forwarded by the L-G secretariat to the MHA, as the committee had recommended that the AMC be scrapped.

Written by Sourav Roy Barman | New Delhi |
Updated: August 20, 2021 7:09:04 am
CNG to hydrogen-CNG: why switch, and howAt the heart of the dispute are two separate tenders floated by the DTC last year for the purchase of 1,000 low-floor AC buses and their AMC. (Representational)

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has recommended a CBI preliminary enquiry into a Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) deal related to the purchase and Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC) of 1,000 low-floor air-conditioned buses. A committee formed by L-G Anil Baijal had flagged various lapses and flaws in the deal.

On July 21, The Indian Express had reported that files related to the deal were forwarded by the L-G secretariat to the MHA, as the committee had recommended that the AMC be scrapped.

MHA Additional Secretary (Union Territory) Govind Mohan communicated the Centre’s decision to Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Dev on August 16. “I am writing this in connection with the purchase of 1,000 low-floor buses by the Delhi government and the report submitted by the three-member committee constituted by the Government of NCT Delhi for a detailed enquiry into the matter. The matter has been examined in this Ministry, and with the approval of competent authority, the DoPT has been requested to take necessary action for undertaking Preliminary Enquiry in the matter by the Central Bureau of Investigation,” Mohan wrote to the Chief Secretary.

The Delhi government, however, has denied the allegations. Former Leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly and BJP leader Vijender Gupta had also demanded a CBI investigation in the matter.

At the heart of the dispute are two separate tenders floated by the DTC last year for the purchase of 1,000 low-floor AC buses and their AMC. The DTC had reasoned that a composite tender for both purposes may not have attracted bidders, hence, it decided to split the process.

While the purchase contract was for Rs 850 crore, the 12-year AMC was for Rs 3,412 crore. The purchase tender was awarded to JBM Auto and Tata Motors on a 70:30 ratio, while JBM Auto had also emerged as the L1 bidder in the AMC tendering.

The matter came under a cloud after the three-member panel pointed out that the eligibility criteria as laid out in the AMC tender “defeated the purpose of splitting the bids”. Principal secretary (transport) Ashish Kundra, principal secretary (vigilance) K R Meena, and former IAS OP Agarwal were members of the committee that was formed on June 16.

In its 11-page report, the committee had observed that the AMC encourages “cartelisation” and “monopoly pricing”. It said the sequencing of the purchase and AMC tendering created a situation where both bidders were aware that they were the only players in the game, that too in the absence of any test of reasonableness of the bids made by the companies. “DTC is well aware of cluster operations in Delhi, with some buses of similar specifications, have been added recently… A facile assertion that no estimation was possible is untenable,” it said.

“The Request for Proposal for AMC did not mention any method of evaluation for arriving at the lowest bid value… The evaluation criteria adopted by the DTC seems to have been flawed on an old practice of taking total cost of maintenance for 12 years,” it added.

The committee, in its report, underlined that it “focused its attention only on the procurement process of AMC of the buses”.

Alluding to the line in the report that the purchase tender had no infirmities, the Delhi government, in a statement, said: “There is absolutely no truth to these allegations. A committee was already set up to investigate the matter thoroughly, which gave a clean chit.”

The government did not comment on the specific observations made by the committee on the AMC tender.

“It is a politically motivated conspiracy against the Aam Aadmi Party. BJP wants to prevent the people of Delhi from getting new buses. In the past as well, the Centre has tried to harass the Delhi government using the CBI, but not even once has their attempt been successful because there has never been any truth to any of their allegations. The Delhi government does not believe in the politics of slander, it only believes in good governance and is committed to delivering upon its promise of good governance,” the government added.

While the Delhi government has not yet scrapped the deal, both the purchase and the AMC contracts were put on hold on June 12. During a July 10 webcast, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had accused the BJP of “trying to malign the image of the AAP government by levelling false allegations”.

On Friday, Gupta demanded the removal of Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot as the DTC chairman and said “all those officials” who put together the contract must also be removed to ensure a fair probe.

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