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KARACHI, May 24 A change in the species of the elephants being purchased by the Karachi city government for its zoo after the publishing of advertisements was not according to the rules, Dawn has reliably learnt.

Highly-placed sources said that the change of species from Asian elephants, which are difficult to get, to African elephants, which are relatively easily available, was equivalent to change of specifications and according to the relevant rules, the specifications could not be changed after the printing of advertisements in the media.

It is learnt that the only available option was to re-advertise, particularly when the zoo, which had initially raised the demand for the elephants, specifically wanted the Asian species.

Sources said that the CDGK had advertised through the media for the purchase of two baby Asian elephants and when it did not get a satisfactory response, the process was cancelled and new advertisements were published, and then a supplier was selected. Later, however, the city government's community development department, which controls the zoo and the Safari Park, changed the species of elephants from Asian to African.

EDO (community development) Rehana Saif told Dawn that after the advertisements were published the supplier was selected and the CDGK agreed to purchase two baby Asian elephants for approximately Rs10 million each.

However, later the supplier informed the city government that the Asian elephants were not available, but he could supply the African elephants at the same price of approximately Rs10 million each.

She said that the CDGK itself searched and found out that it was very difficult to get Asian elephants, but African elephants were relatively easy to get, and since the supplier also agreed to supply the African elephants at the same price, the city government had no option but to agree so that children who visited the zoo and were missing Anarkali - the only elephant in the zoo which died some time back - could once again enjoy the elephant rides.

The EDO said that the city government had also heard that African elephants were comparatively more hostile than their more docile Asian cousins, so it sought reports from various wildlife experts of the CDGK as well as from outside the department, and the reports suggested that if properly trained, the African elephants could also be tamed.

The officials also learnt that various safaris in Africa were conducted by using African elephants that had been trained for the purpose and carried wildlife lovers into the jungle. So, if the training process was done properly, African elephants could also be tamed, she added.

Ms Saif, however, said that the zoo director, Mansoor Qazi, had demanded an Asian elephant and despite the experts' advice still preferred this species.

She said that after getting the experts' recommendations regarding the African elephants, the community development department approached high-ups in the city government and got their approval to change the species so that African elephants could be bought.

She said that after getting the approval from the high-ups, the supplier was allowed to bring in the African elephants that were expected to arrive shortly.

Changes questionable

Responding to Dawn's queries, a top official of the Sindh Public Procurement Regulatory Authority said that under the rules, the specifications could not be changed once the advertisement has been published and people have submitted their bids, because if the specifications are changed after publication, the process would remain questionable and people could think that changes had been made to favour somebody.

He said if the specifications are changed it is possible that some other party, which could supply the commodity but had not submitted their bids because they could not supply the goods of earlier specifications, might also come forward and submit the bid.

He said that nobody had the power to change the specifications after the advertisement was published. He said that the only solution available, when the specifications have to be changed, was to cancel the tender process and publish new advertisements with new specifications, so that everybody, who could supply the goods according to the new specifications, could bid and the process would also be transparent.