The Comptroller and Auditor General has red-flagged the e-procurement process of tenders in Chhattisgarh between April 2016 and March 2017, when the Raman Singh-led BJP government was in power. According to the CAG, it found that 74 common computers were used by 477 bidders for 1,971 tenders across 17 government departments, worth a total of Rs 4,601 crore, which indicated that “bidders and officials were in close touch” even before the bidding process.
The CAG has recommended an “investigation from the vigilance angle” and said the inbuilt “business intelligence module” to detect such “collusive bidding” was completely bypassed. The CAG, which tabled its audit report before the Chhattisgarh Assembly Thursday, also said that there were violations of the Income Tax Act because multiple bidders with common email IDs and five tenders worth Rs 15.44 crore were given to ineligible contractors.
Addressing a press conference, B K Mohanty, Accountant General (Audit) Chhattisgarh, said that the e-procurement system, by the Chhattisgarh Infotech and Biotech Promotion Society Department (CHIPS), under the Department of Information and Technology had set up a system to tender and award work above Rs ten lakh in 2016.
The report said that the “audit observed that in 1,921 tenders valued at Rs 4,601 crore invited by 17 departments, one or more bidders had used such 74 computers to upload their tender details which were also used by at least one government official in these 17 departments for tendering.”
“Of these 477 bidders who used these common machines with at least one government official were awarded works with Rs 961.26 crore. This indicated that the bidders and the officials processing these bids were in close touch even before the bidding process with several vendors/bidders using the same primary email ID, the whole process becomes porous and unreliable,” said the CAG report.
The report also said that while one computer was found in the tender cell of PARD, the locations of the 73 other computers were not on the record of CHIPS and though called for by Audit, were not replied to.
The report further said cross verification of data in the databases of e-works and e-procurement system revealed that 79 contractors have used two sets of PANs, one for registration in the e-works portal of the PWD, and the other for generation of their vendor ID in violation of Section 272B of the IT Act, 1961, which stipulates that only one person can hold one PAN.
“No action could be taken against these contractors as the e-procurement system was not integrated by CHIPS either with e-works or with the Income Tax Department though required as per RFP. Rather, 25 of these 79 contractors were awarded tenders valued at Rs 209.50 crore,” the CAG said, adding that 1,459 vendors had used 235 common primary email-ids between November 2015 and March 2017 to generate vendor-ids where one common email id was used by a minimum of two vendors and a maximum of 309 bidders.