The Ministry of Housing and Works has accused a Pakistan Public Works Department (Pak-PWD) chief engineer of underhand dealing with a construction firm in the award of contract for the construction of the Islamabad High Court building.
Maintaining that “favouritism and corrupt practices” on the part of the engineer delayed construction work, the ministry has forwarded the case to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for investigation.
Pak-PWD Chief Engineer (north) Attaul Haq, who was to oversee the project, estimated the total cost to be Rs2.3 billion. A total of 13 construction firms applied after the ministry first invited applications for award of the contract in December 2013. A committee headed by Haq pre-qualified three firms — Guarantee, Mughal Pakistan and Interhom.
Later, one of the companies that failed to make the shortlist wrote to the housing secretary on December 10, 2014, to complain about an underhand deal between the chief engineer and Interhom. The secretary directed a Pak-PWD director general working with Attaul Haq to submit a detailed report on the pre-qualification and bidding process. Pak-PWD, however failed to comply.
The complainant had also petitioned the IHC over the issue.
Undeterred, Pak-PWD went ahead with the bidding process. Of the three shortlisted firms, Interhom’s was the lowest bid --- Rs 2.97 billion, which was 25.75 per cent above the estimated cost.
According to Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) regulations, the bid should not exceed the estimate by more than 15 per cent.
During the course of hearing, the contested company voluntarily reduced its bid from 25.75 to 13 per cent over the estimate.
The IHC ordered the housing secretary to conduct an inquiry into the allegations of dishonesty in the award of contract.
The ministry carried out the inquiry and found irregularities and discrimination in the pre-qualification process. Documents show that the probe also found that the process did not meet the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) standards too.
Another inquiry ordered by the high court confirmed the findings of the first inquiry and concluded that Interhom was not even eligible for pre-qualification.
In May this year, the court ordered the ministry to carry out the pre-qualification and bidding process afresh. This time, the successful bid was 4.5 per cent over the initial estimate, and Rs503.22 million lower than the Interhom bid.
The ministry has written to the FIA stating that the allegation of underhand dealing in the earlier bidding process was established. It said the “engineer’s favouritism … and working as a facilitator and an abettor in the corrupt practices” was proven. All this, the report says, caused an inordinate delay in the project.
The ministry has also informed the FIA that the chief engineer did not provide relevant records to the inquiry officer.
Housing and Works Senior Joint Secretary Akhtar Jan Wazir confirmed the development and said the case had been forwarded to the FIA.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2015.
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