CPA smells a rat in NHA’s Balochistan road bidding process

Published February 8, 2021
Under the contract, 102km-long road from Naukundi to Mashkhel will be constructed at an estimated cost of over Rs6 billion. —File photo
Under the contract, 102km-long road from Naukundi to Mashkhel will be constructed at an estimated cost of over Rs6 billion. —File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Contractors Association of Pakistan (CAP) has expressed doubts about the transparency of the process adopted to award a multi-billion-rupee road project as the National Highway Authority (NHA) disqualified the country’s seven top firms, including the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), on identical grounds.

The CAP appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Federal Communications Minister Murad Saeed to intervene into the matter to ensure transparency and fair play in the award of the contract, but to no avail.

Under the contract, 102km-long road from Naukundi to Mashkhel will be constructed at an estimated cost of over Rs6 billion. The contract has not been awarded so far, but two firms have been shortlisted for the award bidding process.

FWO among seven top firms disqualified from bidding process

The disqualified construction firms have filed appeals before the chairman of NHA Grievance Committee seeking a chance under the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) Rules to meet the NHA requirement for qualifying for the bids.

Top officials of the NHA, however, claimed that there was nothing wrong in the evaluation process of the bids, claiming seven of the nine bids had been rejected on “solid grounds”.

The nine firms which had participated in the bidding process were: Maqbool-Calson Joint Venture (JV), Umer Jan-NP JV, FWO, KAC-NIC JV, SMABD, SPGEC-ZEPL JV, Matracon-Reliable JV, ZKB and SKB-KCE JV.

The seven firms rejected by the NHA were: Maqbool-Calson Joint Venture (JV), Umer Jan-NP JV, FWO, SMABD, SPGEC-ZEPL JV, Matracon-Reliable JV and SKB-KCE JV.

The association, in its appeal to the prime minister and the federal minister, wondered why the country’s top seven construction firms had been disqualified despite having solid financial and technical resources and having completed much bigger projects in the past.

The association claimed that the rejected firms had been disqualified on frivolous and almost identical grounds, adding that the planning wing of the NHA had violated the spirit of healthy competition by eliminating all renowned contractors and negating the government narrative of transparency and fair play.

A senior official of the FWO, who did not want to be named, told Dawn that the NHA had required that participating firms must have Rs5.3 billion turnover, but the FWO had over Rs60 billion turnover over the last two to three years.

“The NHA requires Rs700 million as the working capital, but our firm has Rs1,500m to Rs1,600m working capital and we have executed much bigger projects than the one in question,” he said.

Matracon-Reliable JV in its appeal to the grievance committee said that it was not specifically mentioned in the bidding data Clause 11.1C (V) that audit report for the year 2019-20 was a mandatory requirement.

Talking to Dawn, NHA’s Member of Planning Naveed Iqbal Wahla said if the firms had any grievance, they had different forums to challenge the NHA decision.

“They can go to the Chairman of Grievances Committee and if they are not satisfied with the decision of the chairman of the committee, they can move any court of law,” he said.

The official claimed that the seven firms had been disqualified on solid technical grounds.

The member said the firms had 14 days after the disqualification to file their appeals before the grievances committee and the committee was bound to decide the matter within 15 days. “Rules also allow them (firms) to go to any court of law,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2021

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