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LAHORE, Dec 30: At a time when the Punjab government badly needs finances to meet various expenses, the Parks and Horticulture Authority’s Rs20 million investment on flower seeds for this winter smacks of a fishy deal.

It is scandalous that the amount paid is 40 per cent higher than the market price of seeds. During the last winter season (2011-12), when there was not much construction activity, the PHA had purchased seeds worth Rs3.2 million, Dawn has learnt.

Sources said the PHA had also violated the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules by conducting an open auction instead of calling sealed bids (open tenders etc.,) while buying such a huge quantity of seeds from three contractors -- More Green, Mian Ishaq Nursery and Sunny View -- in July last.

Documents say the PHA director general, while chairing a meeting of the purchase committee, had directed the officials in writing to purchase the seeds through open auction instead of calling tenders through sealed bidding.

“It will be an open auction through competition in a transparent manner. So please amend the advertisement accordingly,” the PHA chief had said in his order of June 11, 2012. The DG chaired the meeting in the presence of five bidders, the directors of finance, planning and development, horticulture zone and monitoring and operations.

Sources said as the flower seeds were required to maintain the tradition of “Lahore in Bloom” for the winter season for the parks, green belts and nurseries of the PHA, the administration ignored the fact that there would be less space because of massive construction. The horticulture zones demanded 27 types of seeds.

“The prices of flower seeds approved in the open bidding documents by the DG were not compared with the PHA’s own seed price quotations which it had issued to the Defence Housing Authority when the latter showed interest in purchasing seeds for its residential society. The DHA had shown interest in buying seeds from the PHA as it believed that the latter purchased seeds in bulk at much cheaper rates than those of the market. “Surprisingly, the PHA authorities offered rates to the DHA even less than those on which they had purchased seeds through an open auction on July 30,” a source explained.

The DHA authorities still showed dissatisfaction on these rates and conveyed to the PHA administration in writing in November that the rates offered to it were much higher than the market prices. The DHA also provided a list of market rates.

According to the documents the PHA purchased Petunia flower seeds at Rs3,200 per gram through open bidding from More Green and the same firm offered it to the DHA at Rs1,400 per gram. Similarly, the quantity of 100gm Pansy seed was purchased by the PHA at Rs2,390 and the same was quoted to the DHA at Rs1,350 per gram.

Moreover, Antirrhinum was purchased at Rs2,100 per gram while the same was quoted by the PHA to the DHA at Rs1,705 per gram. Keeping in view the situation, the DHA decided not to buy seeds.

The bidding documents reveal the PHA had purchased seeds -- Phlox at Rs2,475/gm, Petunia Falcon at Rs3,200/gm, Pansy at Rs1,200/gm, Petunia Ultra at Rs4,200/gm, Mari Gold (Inca) at Rs745/gm, Mari Gold French at Rs145/gm, Sanananyria at Rs9,500/gm, Antirrhinum at Rs2,100/gm, Salvia F1 at Rs410/gm, Ghazania Kiss Dwarf at Rs945/gm, Petunia Hanging at Rs8,900/gm, Pansy Karma at Rs2,390/gm, Flowering Cabbage at Rs280/gm and Antirrhinum Dwarf at Rs2,100/gm.

The PHA DG had also sought explanation from his staff about the reservations by the DHA.

Officials say the PHA had unnecessarily purchased the seeds in bulk. “I am surprised that the flower beds had decreased this year due to ongoing development projects in the city. I fear that as the department was not required to utilise this bulk quantity this season, the officials purchased less quantity of seeds but showed bulk quantity,” a senior official said.

PHA Director (Horticulture) Muhammad Tehseen, who was among the six members of the purchase committee, said the committee was supposed to compare the rates of the flower seeds and not to buy these. When asked about the rates and reservations by the DHA, he said he didn’t know about any such issue.

He expressed his ignorance about purchase of such a huge quantity of seeds. He said the PHA had almost doubled its flower beds this year. “The construction work is under way on Ferozepur Road alone. There are many roads where no construction is going on,” he said.PHA Director (Monitoring and Operations) Dr Umar Jahangir said though he didn’t know about the amount spent on the seeds, the PHA had definitely bought more seeds than it did last year.

PHA DG Muhammad Mahmood denied his version.