National, Front Page

Serious manipulation in WASA contract

Third lowest favoured

Published : 16 Sep 2019 09:44 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 02:30 PM

Violating official rules a section of government officials are trying to award a water supply project to a company instead of the lowest bidder incurring loss of Tk 40 crore and 44 lakh. Meanwhile, ADB ordered the project director to give explanation why the tenders of the two lowest bidders were cancelled.

ADB also asked PD to get explanation from the two bidders why their price difference is only Tk 4 crore.It is alleged that some senior officials of Dhaka Water Supply & Sewerage Authority (DWASA) are trying to pursue awarding a contract of Tk 331 crore and 59 lakh to RFL Plastic Ltd, a local company, though this company has been disqualified (Non-responsive).

The contract will be implemented under a project titled Dhaka Water Supply Network Improvement Project (DWSNIP), under fourth package. DWASA Managing Director Engineer Taqsem A Khan and Additional Chief Engineer-cum Project Director Md Akhtaruzzaman are allegedly manipulating to get the contract awarded in favour of RFL Plastic Ltd. The lion’s share of the project will be funded by the donor agency Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Bangladesh Post investigations reveals that WASA invited international tender on January 2, 2018 for the fourth package under the DWSNIP. Ten foreign eligible companies through local sub-contracts participated in the tender process. According to the procurement guideline of the ADB, four companies were declared responsive on December 17, 2018 after technical evaluation.

Among them, Hubei Industrial Construction Group Co., Ltd (HICC), established in 1953, is the only provincial state-owned construction enterprise that has participated in new China’s construction over the past 60 years. HICC was the lowest bidder among all four responsive bidders. HICC submitted tender proposing Tk 291 Crore and 15 lakh. 

The China First  Metallurgical Group Company Ltd was the second lowest bidder. They proposed Tk 294 and 51 lakh.  China Construction Second Engineering Bureau and RFL Plastic Ltd jointly proposed  Tk 331 crore and 59 lakh. They were third lowest bidder among all four bidders.

China Geo-Engineering Corporation (CGC) was the fourth lowest bidder. They proposed Tk 364 crore and 70 lakh. As per normal rule, the lowest financial bidder must be awarded the contract. But WASA MD and Project Director did not agree and refused to comply with the rules. As a justification to disqualify their submission and apparently cancel the lowest bidders they mentioned that the first and second lowest bidders had a price quotation difference of only Tk 4 crore and they also had some ‘similar’ issues between the two bidders.

Meanwhile, RFL authority is allegedly lobbying and putting pressure on WASA MD and Project Director to finally award the contract in their favour.  Following objections raised by officials the tender bids were reviewed . An official letter was issued to examine the tenders through a technical committee. However, technical committee did not find any faults in the submitted tenders of the first and second highest bidders as per international tender rules. At that stage, WASA MD and PD became desperate to find faults of the first and second lowest bidders. Bringing this issue in the front line, they accused these two lowest bidders.

 Not only this, PD Md Aktaruzzaaman allegedly recommended to the ADB for awarding the contact to the  RFL Plastic, with Tk 40 crore and 44 lakh higher than the two lowest bidders mysteriously. But ADB’s Dhaka Office denied to give the  contract to the RFL Plastic. Getting letter from the ADB through Project Director, the two bidders sent their written replies. In the replies, they informed that one sub-contractor can participate with several companies as per the rules of international tender.  

There is no complexities if their prices are almost same. ADB also accepted the replies of the two lowest bidders. ADB internally investigated whether there were any misrules of the two bidders. But they yet to find any faults. They also informed the WASA that they did not find any faults of the two lowest bidders. Despite getting report from the ADB, WASA MD and PD did not stop their move for awarding the contract to the RFL Plastic.

At that stage, Project Director went to the head office of ADB in Philippines for lobbying on behalf of RFL. He also brought approval from ADB head office for awarding the contract in favour of RFL. He also placed the approval letter to the board meeting for giving the contract to the RFL. Some board members proposed  to send it to the Central Procurement Technical Unit, considering the approval letter of the ADB head office, lacking transparency.  At that stage, WASA MD and Project Director started lobbying for RFL openly.

 They said if RFL is not awarded the contact, the fund will be returned. They placed such threatening letter of ADB to the board meeting held on August 26, for creating pressure on the board members. Meanwhile, a fax signed by Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director for Bangladesh Manmohan Parkash said,  we have no objection to the recommendation of the Bid Evaluation Committee to award RFL the contract.

Same letter also  disqualified the HICC and  China First  Metallurgical Group Company Ltd, the first lowest and second lowest bidders respectively. On August 26, such threating letter was placed at the board meeting. Board members – former parliamentarian Dr Mustafa Jalal Mohiuddin, also the president of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) and Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) Secretary General Shaban Mahmud proposed to investigate through Central Procurement Technical Unit for more transparency. But WASA MD still wants to give the contract to RFL after bringing his own report from his chosen Economic Relations Department under Finance Ministry in support of Tk 331 crore and 44 lakh.

Talking to the Bangladesh Post on Monday, Prof. Dr. M. Habibur Rahman, Chairman of Dhaka WASA Board said, “ We want to give contract to the lowest bidder. But ADB does not want it.” Responding to a question he said, “ The letter of the ADB which was placed in the last board meeting, was objectionable.”

Sources said ADB letter threatened to withdraw fund, if the RFL Plastic is not awarded the contract. A board meeting of WASA will be held on September 17, to solve the issue, sources said. Bangladesh Post called accused Md Akhtaruzzaman, but he denied to comment over the allegation against him.

BFUJ secretary general Shaban Mahmud, also a WASA board member alleged that by-passing the decision of the board, a proposal was sent to ERD for approval. “I suspect only to give the contract to the RFL, the decision of the  board meeting was by-passed,” he further alleged. But we decided to send the proposal to the CPTU, he said adding, I shall give note of decent, if the RFL is given the contact illegally.

Despite several attempts, WASA Managing Director Engr. Taqsem A Khan could not be reached over phone. Md Attique Hossain Rabby, local agent of the  Hubei Industrial Construction Group Co., Ltd alleged that if proper investigation is conducted, you would see how a non-responsive firm was declared responsive only to give them the contract.

He urged to give the contract to the company officially deemed fit for the work. He also alleged that his firm was first declared responsive. But later illegally was declared non-responsive.