The Vigilance department of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) has written to the state government, seeking an inquiry into a contract awarded for the supply of Electronic Ticket Issuing Machines (ETIMs) to Trimax IT Infrastructure and Services Limited.
In a letter to the government, the department has said the company, which was supposed to hand over all hardware and software on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis to MSRTC in 2014 and then provide free maintenance till 2016, was instead awarded a new ‘upgradation’ contract allegedly with the connivance of MSRTC officials. The department has pegged the loss to the state exchequer at Rs 300 crore.
Sources in the transport department told The Indian Express that the report would be studied and a decision regarding a probe by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) would be taken soon.
“Trimax bagged the contract of digitising the ticketing system through ETIMs in 2009. The idea was to computerise the ticketing process, thereby easing the tallying of tickets issued by conductors against cash deposited. A conductor would return to the depot after his shift and plug in the ETIM into a computer that would show the number of tickets issued by him along with the value. The same would be tallied with the cash,” said a senior state government official.
The process was to be completed by December 2014. For its services, including hardware and software, the company was charging 21 paise per ticket issued. “In 2014, as the contract was on BOT basis, Trimax was supposed to hand over all equipment to MSRTC at one rupee and, according to the contract, was also supposed to give free maintenance for the next two years after completing the project,” said the official.
However, MSRTC’s traffic department then proposed a new system – as soon as a conductor issued a ticket, a message in real time would be sent to MSRTC.
The vigilance department’s letter to the government states, “The proposed new system will not provide any facility to the passengers and will not address the present problem of pilferage by conductors. It is a classic case of vendor-driven redundant upgradation.”
Additionally, while four paisa per ticket was the cost of the paper, 17 paisa per ticket had to be footed for use of the hardware. Officials pointed out that this was odd, given that the project assets were to have been transferred to MSRTC at the end of five years at a cost of Re 1.
A new tender was floated for the upgradation. According to officials, eligibility criteria was tailormade to suit Trimax. “The contract was renewed for another five years in an uncompetitive bidding process. To top it, now Trimax would charge 33 paise per ticket. Earlier, it charged 21 paise inclusive of thermal paper used for printing the tickets,” said the state government.
The vigilance department’s letter said, “The same company is doing a similar project for Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation for 14 paise per ticket and it charges 10 paise per ticket from BEST.”
Over the last five years, about 650 crore tickets were issued by the ETIM. “The financial implications at 33 paise per ticket would then be around Rs 300 crore,” he said.
When contacted by The Indian Express, a representative of Trimax said the contract was as per rules. “The agreement had the provision for extension of agreement and the same was done after board approval. The next work was awarded after separate open tender where Trimax was L1. The scope was increased in new tender,” the company said in an email response. The company rejected claims that the contract had caused a loss of Rs 300 crore to the state exchequer.
State government officials, however, said the vigilance department had requested a proper inquiry by the ACB.