Wed. Mar 29th, 2023

Corruption in Tendering and Awarding of Contracts

Abdullah Khan Dero

Around twenty five years back, the Punjab government launched an initiative to stamp corruption out in the province, mostly for public consumption, by using billboards on each square of Lahore, with slogans, like ‘Rishwat Lena Jis ka Kaam Zalil Kamina Us Ka Naam’. (Those who take bribe from from a lower social class).

A comic ridiculed the slogan and added a sentence below, ‘Awaaz e Sagaan kum na Kunad rizq e gada ra’. ‘Barking dogs cannot dwindle the bread winning of a beggar’.

GB government, no doubt, is commendable for not only reviving dead projects of the past, but also for initiating new projects particularly in health, power and construction sector since after its holding power-led offices. But, unfortunately, despite of continuously rejecting the allegations of bribery, they have been awarding contracts to some lucky contractors. Some say that there is some kind of a quota reserved for favorite contractors. The government denies such assertions.

Mind you, this is not the only government accused of corruption. The previous government is accused of being the worst corrupt administration ever. They also deny.

Like other provinces of the country, corruption is not perceived, any longer, as a concealed and collusive act. It is rather thought of as a highly profitable business carried out through coaxing human resource and exploiting the procurement rules in our province.

Issuing tenders for awarding contracts, the legal way of utilizing funds in GB, is by and large preconceived to be a “Putli Tamasha” executed by the authorities of the procurement agencies who are simultaneously purchasers and alleged supporters of certain bidders, as partners or suppliers, or relatives of the high-ups-backed contractors.

The intangible power, the stalwart of all, is more often an alleged phone call or a lapdog intervening, particularly when the worth of project is in millions. Sometimes both the players’ interest conflict but the latter’s intimidated notes always supersede as the first players cannot take the risk of being reprimanded for minor mistakes. These professionals-cum-managers may not be experts in their respective professions, if put to test, but they surely are experts in manipulating the procurement procedures.

Eventually, to accomplish this unfair deals they develop the bid documents in favor of their pet brand clearly violating the PPRA rule 10 that says, “Specifications shall allow the widest possible competition and shall not favour any single contractor or supplier nor put others at a disadvantage”. Sometimes, conscious players develop ties with the vendors outside the province and develop the terms and conditions for the bidders in a way that those may not favour the institutions but keeps the local bidders away, by disqualifying them on technical grounds, of course.

Despite of the predetermined lucky bidder the procuring agency sells the bid documents to many bidders handing a good amount ranging from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 5000 for each document while the PPRA rule 16(2) clearly says that they can only charge the amount incurred while preparing the documents.

It is to note that the third players, the supporting actors, the drum beaters, the dancers, dobhi ka kutta na ghar ka na gaat ka, (I am also one of them), all terms suit this cadre, have a mandatory role, taking procurement process to a successful end. As the procurement rules require many bids to select the “Lowest evaluated bid” and so these bids are solicited only to make the process in conformity with PPRA rules to avoid internal and external audit observations and drawing the money from treasury. A reasonable amount is also reserved for this ‘Holy’ department too to turn a blind eye towards this unfair deal, however, a token money is paid to this department on all legal and fair drawings. These unlucky bidders never win a reasonable worth of contract even if they offer real gold coated equipment at a very reasonable price. The dismal is that each supporting actor incurs an equal cost against each bid as of the successful bidders in preparing, purchasing, and retaining the amounts in hundred thousand in the form of CDRs for months and holding their offices throughout the years. However, awarding the supply of thrown away items keeps them connected with an undying hope and their businesses too. Hence, these bidders participate in each bidding processes with the prospect that perhaps a supernatural power will work and they will receive their deserving shares. It is true that it is only the hope that keeps the poor alive.

Indeed, such unheard voices cannot eliminate the strongly rooted corruption in our society yet we ought to raise our voices altogether against this corruption, at least, to pay tribute to this quote ‘cruelty is not due to the cruel but it is due to not raising voices against it.

I suggest to the fair and honest authorities only, if they cannot reduce corruption than reserve at least 30% of the funds for free and fair execution of the contracts, publishing generic specifications before disseminating to the bidders and posting the resultant comparative statements on the websites of the procuring agencies as well as paste on their notice boards with the grounds of acceptance and rejections of the bids as auspicious initiatives. This shall not be an undue favor, because the procurement rule no. 35 says, “Procuring agencies shall announce the results of bid evaluation in the form of a report giving justification for acceptance or rejection of bids at least ten days prior to the award of procurement contract”.

Let’s hope somebody shows character and intervenes to save the national exchequer form the robbers hiding in plain sight.

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