Graft detected in eastern areas’ project contracts

A consumer organization is in possession of documentation that point to manipulation, violation of contract terms and norms for executing nine contract works – bridges, in this case – for Mon, Tuensang, Longleng and Kiphire under the special package to the eastern areas. 

The Nagaland Voluntary Consumers’ Organization (NVCO) issued a representation to the Government of Nagaland today alleging engineered costs, escalated and exorbitant expenditure quotes and anomalies in the rates, terms and conditions set for the nine bridges earmarked for year 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.   

The NVCO’s representation carried elaborate information garnered through the Right to Information Act (RTI). The details point to extensive anomalies which the organization said must be rectified immediately and bring them at par with other contractors’ rate, and as per the Public Work Department’s (PWD) schedule, as an act of justice to the projects for the eastern areas. 

The NVCO alleged to the governor that contract for construction of nine RCC bridges under Special Package for the eastern areas was awarded to the contractors/firms including one M/s National Construction. However the contract is in total violation of norms and conditions stipulated both by the Public Works Department code and Central Public Works Department Code particularly because it was set without calling open tenders. 

The NVCO has also demanded immediate rectification of alleged exorbitant rates awarded to the contractors/firms for the construction and bring them at par with other (local) contractors’ rate as per NPWD Schedule of Rates 2010 (Roads & Bridges) to avail the same rate, same terms and conditions.

The culture of “approved exorbitant rates” is damaging the State’s economy, bringing huge financial burdens to the government and depriving local contractors, entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs of fair opportunities chance to meaningfully grow, participate and contribute in the development of the State and the society, the NVCO said.

The representation also pointed out some ‘contradictions’ in the NIT terms and terms of work agreement.  The NVCO quoted Clause-14 of NIT that 4% Work Contract Tax would be deducted from the contractor’s bill. But as per Contract Agreement Clause-iii all the sales tax and contract tax as applicable shall be paid extra by the department, the NVCO said. Also, as per Clause-16 of the NIT payment are to be made subject to availability of fund. However, as per Contract Agreement Clause-iv all payment will be made by crossed Demand Draft. All other terms, and conditions and payment will be as per NPWA Code, the NVCO found out.

Further, as per the NIT, no mention of price escalation as per R.B.I. bulletin has been given. However, as per contract agreement clause-4 “price escalation as per RBI Index shall be awarded on expiry of the stipulated period in case the work is delayed beyond the validity period due to non payment/non release of fund/no faults of the contracting firms or for any unforeseen reasons as per standard formula of MOST and the operative date will be counted from the date of expiry of the work order if the completion period is delayed due to the reasons stated above.”

Likewise, the NVCO pointed out that as per NIT rates, rate is to be quoted on percentage basis above/below or as per Schedule of Rate 2010 NPWD (R&B) but as per the approved rate, it was quoted by Item Rate Basis, the representation said. 

The organization also provided comparative charts and financial details of 11 RCC bridges under the special package for four eastern districts awarded to one M/S National Construction of Dimapur.  Likewise, comparative charts for the amount for tender and the approved rate for Mon and Kohima district (2010-2011), comparison of the approved rates were given. 

“Not even single criteria, stated above are observed in any form which clearly amounts to total violation of tender norms. The NIT was floated clearly on percentage basis; however, work order was issued purely on item rate quoted by the contractors without any negotiation,” the NVCO stated.

The NVCO also said there are records of 3 bridge projects that the department allotted the work at 422.90% which is above the Schedule of Rate 2010. “Whereas, in Nagaland, not even a single bridge of same type/similar nature of work for the other contractor ever exceeded a meager percentage @ 10% above NPWD (R&B) Schedule of Rate 2010 in this undersigned good office. Hence, It is beyond doubt that clearly a code of favoritism and nepotism is shown to this particular contractor as compared to that of other contractors,” the NVCO said. 

“Also, as per available record, the work order issued for other contractors were not more than @ Rs28.87 lakhs per running meter, where as the work order allotted for the 3 (three) works stated, comes to an average of Rs.97.58 lakhs per running meter with an additional Clause of RBI provision. There is a strong probability that ultimately by the time the project is completed it may shoot up to Rs.110-120 lakhs per running meter.”

In addition, the NVCO said that Work Tax and Sale Tax are very much incorporated in the NPWD Schedule of Rate. “However, to our utter surprise, Clause-iii in the terms and conditions of the work order states that Sales Tax shall be paid extra by the department,” the NVCO said.  The NVCO also included a table showing deduction in taxes to be incurred by the department itself.

(NVCO statement): As per NIT, 3 bridges tenders were invited on percentage basis whereas Work Order was issued on items rates basis amounting to Rs.4905.55 + Price Index. NIT amount for the 3 (three) Bridges were Rs.1713.26 lakhs .Hence the difference between the NIT amount and the Approved work order amount is (4905.55 -1713.26) = Rs.3192.29 lakhs, which is increased over the NIT amount for the 3 (three) Bridges = 186.32%. But if it is to be compared with the rate quoted in Item Rate, the approved rate for M/s. National Construction is @ 422.90% above Schedule of Rate NPWD (R&B) 2010.

Also, for any bridge project, be it RCC bridge or Bailey bridge, it is pertinent to mention that the project can never ever be technically prepared on phase-wise manner. However, the Department had issued the Work order in phase-wise manner viz. 

a). Construction of Bridge over river Dikhu on Longleng-Chuchunyinmlang road (Phase-I), Project cost Rs.2100.00Lakhs. 

b) Construction of Bridge over river Dikhu on Longleng-Chuchunyinmlang road (Phase-II), Project cost Rs.2000.00 Lakhs 

c) Construction of Bridge over river Yongmon on Longleng-Angjangyang SDO (Civil) Hqrs Road (Phase-I), Project cost Rs.2954.00 Lakhs

d) Construction of Bridge over river Yongmon on Longleng-Angjangyang SDO (Civil) Hqrs Road (Phase-II), Project cost Rs.1999.83 Lakhs.

This has never occurred in the history of construction of any bridge project and hence, it is again a total violation of all ethics of technicality.

Even in the past, such malpractices were committed but no action were ever taken against the culprits, the NVCO said and gave several instance of corrupted contract dealings in Nagaland such as the alleged sabotage by “non-local class-1 contractors” Shri. Ansari, Mohan Singh and Pathak of i) M/s Azam & Associates & Co, M/s Paneswar & Sons   and M/s Frontier Construction; the contract work for the controversial permanent headquarters for 9th NAP (IR) Bn at Saijang among others. The NVCO has appealed to the governor to take necessary action “to rectify the rates as per the NPWD Schedule of Rates 2010 for the interest of public.”

The Morung Express