KARACHI: The Sindh government has requested the Supreme Court to vacate a stay order it had passed on December 18, preventing the chief minister (CM) from buying a new helicopter, The Express Tribune learned on Tuesday.
The request was made by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority’s (PDMA) managing director, who filed his comments to the apex court’s Karachi registry, a copy of which was obtained by The Express Tribune. The government had called international bids to buy the helicopter through newspapers and, while eight parties procured the bid documents, only one – AgustaWestland, SPA Italy – responded to the advertisement, he maintained.
The officer said that the secretaries of the services general administration and coordination, and the rehabilitation departments did not attend a single meeting of the committee. Instead, they nominated their deputy secretaries as they felt ‘uncomfortable’ attending a meeting under the chairmanship of the finance secretary, who is a grade-20 officer, the same rank as them.
The finance secretary proposed to make either a provincial minister or a senior officer of grade-21 the committee chairperson to oversee the purchase of the helicopter. Hence, cooperative department’s additional chief secretary Shazar Shamoon was appointed.
According to the PDMA director-general, the technical bid was opened on August 5, 2014, and a committee was formed to evaluate it, as per the relevant rules of the Sindh Public Procurement Rules Act (SPPRA), 2010. The bid was evaluated on August 25 by the technical committee headed by VIP Flights chief pilot Brigadier (retd) Ahmed Salman. The report said that the financial bid was opened on September 1. The procurement committee decided to visit the users of AW-139 in Pakistan and proposed a meeting with the technical team of AgustaWestland to discuss the specifications, such as the composition of the aircraft.
The director-general informed that the proposed draft of the contract furnished by AgustaWestland was forwarded for vetting to the law department, which observed that it should be addressed to the governor as provided under clause (3) of the Article 173 of the Constitution. It also observed that under the article 14 of the Agreement (Applicable Laws and Disputes), the contract agreement should be governed and incorporated with the laws of Pakistan and not by Italy.
The court was informed that the issue of the applicable laws was discussed in a procurement committee meeting on October 28. As per the law department’s opinion, there is no harm if the contract is regulated under the laws of England, as in a similar case, the purchase of a helicopter by the cabinet division under the procurement laws of England, is available.
A summary was floated to the Sindh chief minister seeking formal approval to buy the helicopter for the PDMA. On the CM’s directives, the matter was placed before the cabinet, which approved the proposal. Once approved by the cabinet, the summary was sent to the CM again, who gave a go-ahead on December 18 and the contract for the purchase of AW-139 helicopter worth $15.95 million was given to AgustaWestland on December 19.
The DG clarified that neither was the bid conditional nor was the advance payment made to the party as claimed in the petition. The officer claimed that all the procedural formalities have been observed and there is no deviation of the SPPRA Rules, 2009. He pleaded the court vacate the stay order and allow PDMA to purchase the new ride.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2014.