Ctg Mohara Water Supply Project |
Glitch in tender process delaying award of contract
Abdullah Al Mahmud, Ctg
A delay in awarding contract for the construction of Mohara Water Supply Project of Chittagong Water and Sewerage Authority (CWASA) is lingering the plight of about 40 lakh residents of the port city reeling under an acute water crisis.
The government financed Tk 197.96 crore project was taken up since CWASA with its present water producing capacity of 180mld (million litres per day) is not being able to meet the demand for over 500mld of water.
The new plant would ease the water crisis by producing an additional 90mld of water.
Having the project on the government's priority list the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved it in September 2003 and Prime Minister Khaleda Zia laid the foundation at the project site on October 6, 2003.
The project has been caught up in a bureaucratic tangle resulting from the tender invitation and evaluation process, since it was placed before the Cabinet Purchase Committee meeting held in the capital on February 1 this year, sources said.
The technical evaluation committee (TEC) of the project sent the bids to the Cabinet Purchase Committee in late January this year after the pre-qualification and two other stages of the tendering process that started in May last year.
TEC recommended accepting the lowest bid offered by Development Construction Ltd and Associates (DCL) in association with an Indian firm Sebabrat (SBA). DCL-SBA offered to complete the construction in the first phase of the project for a price of Tk 63.4 crore.
Different electronic and print media on the day following the purchase committee meeting on February 1 published reports that the project was approved.
But, in reality all other projects that were placed before the purchase committee meeting were approved while the Mohara project failed to obtain the approval of the purchase committee due to a 'note of dissent' by one of the nine TEC members.
The purchase committee asked the project authorities to place the bids in its next meeting after re-evaluating the tendering process and the TEC recommendations.
A 3-member committee was formed comprising the secretary of Local Government Department, director general of Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) and a professor from BUET for re-evaluation.
TEC member, Abhilash Zutsi, also the team leader of a consultant firm Desh Upadesh Limited (DUL) of India, in his note of dissent said the bid submitted by the lowest bidder DCL and Associates is 'non-responsive', meaning its submission does not conform to the specifications agreed upon at the tender adjustment meeting (TAM).
He rather preferred to offer the contract to EPI- BFEW, a consortium of Engineering Project India Ltd and Bangladesh Foundry and Engineering Works Limited. EPI-BFEW consortium submitted the second lowest bid of Tk 94.55 crore.
Abhilash in his note of dissent said the deviations made by DCL-SBA in the priced BoQ (Bill of Qunatity) amounts to 'material change' to the original design of the project.
Instead of incorporating necessary modifications as desired and agreed upon at TAM the bidder DCL-SBA introduced a new design parameter, the note said.
Nomenclature and new layout of items are causing 40 percent reduction in civil work and implementation qualities, affecting the financial dimension of the project, the note of dissent said.
DCL-SBA categorically refused to guarantee the clarity of treated water at 1 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Unit) as specified in the requirement of the project, instead it wanted to keep the clarity below 5 NTU, Abhilash alleged in his note. NTU is a measure of clarity of water and if it is over 5 NTU then the opacity of water is visible to average human eyes.
Besides, capacity specifications and country of origin of some of the vital equipment in the DCL-SBA bid do not conform to the agreement reached in TAM, the note said.
The rest of the TEC members found the deviations in DCL-SBA's BoQ as 'minor'.
Such deviations were also found in the BoQ of the second lowest bidder EPI-BFEW consortium, they said.
Keeping in mind the extreme urgency for increased water supply in Chittagong and the project's high priority status on the government's priority list, TEC evaluated the submitted bids with a little bit of leniency and views the offers submitted by both DCL and EPI as substantially responsive, sources said.
But since there prevails a difference in opinion among its members, TEC referred to Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) seeking advice and comments, said one of the TEC members.
“TEC went for examination of the clarifications given by DCL in accordance with the guidelines provided by CPTU and evaluated the bid as substantially responsive,” he said.
This TEC member rather alleged that Abhilash has been trying to favour the second lowest bidder from the very beginning and steered everything in that direction.
The other eight members of TEC said they finally recommended DCL and Associates, whose offer they found to be very much within the officially estimated cost of the construction work amounting to Tk 86 crore.
Besides, DCL offers 110 percent insurance, 10 percent performance guarantee and 5 percent discount on every item on the bill of quantity. Given the scenario DCL-SBA has no scope of getting around without fulfilling the requirements or following the agreed upon minutes of TAM, claimed the project director while talking to The Daily Star.
The 3-member re-evaluation committee held seven meetings between April 17 and April 28 discussing and re-evaluating the bids.
Outcome of the re-evaluation however could not be known. A report on the re-evaluation will be placed at the next meeting of the Cabinet Purchase Committee with recommendations.
Meanwhile, with only one third of their total demand for water met, the residents of the port city said they expect a speedy re-evaluation and implementation of the project.