Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has directed the Anti-Corruption Establishment director general to probe allegations of irregularities in the selection of firms to bid for a potable water supply scheme worth Rs846 million for Toba Tek Singh.
Two letters dated February 15, 2011 and March 16, 2011, direct the ACE director general to form a fact-finding team and hold an inquiry into the allegations.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Chaudhry Tariq Bajwa, in a letter addressed to the chief minister, had requested that action be taken against Public Health and Engineering Department chief engineer (South) Malik Tanveer, a Faisalabad superintendent engineer, a Toba Tek Singh executive engineer and other officials concerned. Bajwa accused them of nepotism in selection of five of the 29 applicants for bidding for the water supply scheme. He further accused them of prequalifying these firms on the basis of fake documents, approving non-scheduled rates higher than market rates and releasing mobilisation advance without getting performance security. In the letter, Bajwa said an open auction for short listing of firms could have saved the government millions of rupees. PHED chief engineer Malik Tanveer refused to comment. He said the matter was before the inquiry committee now and he would comment after going through the inquiry report.
The text of MPA Bajwa’s letter addressed to the chief minister stated that the officials had approved Rs815.945 million for the Urban Water Supply Scheme for Toba Tek Singh on December 9, 2010. It said that the amount was revised to Rs846.292 million on January 7, 2011.
The letter stated that according to the advertisement inviting tenders only those firms approved by the Pakistan Engineering Council to execute projects of such magnitude could be selected for the purpose.
The letter said that the accused PHED officials dropped the names of all but five of the 29 firms that had applied for the bidding on the pretext that they did not meet the PEC criteria. It added that the shortlisted firms also lacked the capacity to execute projects worth more than Rs500 million, according to the PEC criteria. The officials, the letter said, divided the cost into two components – Rs336.181 million and Rs393.315 million – to ensure that two of the four (one firm was later dropped) contractors left were given the project.
PHED chief engineer Malik Tanveer admitted that the project’s cost was divided up into two chunks to ensure that the project could be given to two of the four shortlisted firms. He said it was done to avoid delays.
The Urban Water Supply Scheme had been approved by the provincial government in the fiscal year 2010-11 to provide clean drinking water to the residents of Toba Tek Singh. The project would be designed to draw water from a source located about 33 kilometres from the city.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2011.