In what can be termed a deception by government officials, the Manipur’s social welfare department has been found approving a Maruti Swift Dzire car as a “truck” for transporting rice and micronutrients for Anganwadi centres in the state.
The clear case of fraud and scandal occurred in the tendering process for intending transport contractors for transportation of 20,072 MT of rice from FCI depots located in Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal, Senapati, Churachandpur, Ukhrul and Jiribam and 2,656 MT of micronutrient fortified food from department of Social Welfare’s godown located at Takyelpat, Imphal West to various Anganwadi centres for a period of two years at an estimated value of Rs 14,20,53,144.
Interestingly, this is not the only irregularity found in the tendering process. As per sources of the Imphal Free Press and documents available with us, the technical tender committee headed by Social Welfare director Ngangom Uttam approved a certain firm/bidder with fake and forged documents in gross violation of the terms and conditions provided in the notice inviting tender (NIT).
The Social Welfare director on September 2 this year issued the NIT with tender No 8/28/2022-SNP (SW), according to which the last date of submission of tender form was September 27, 2022; opening of technical bids was on September 28 and opening of price bids was October 4.
Further, on September 23, another notification was issued for extending the last date of submission of tender form till September 30. A week later, a corrigendum was also notified on September 30 amending the provisions of the original NIT and the last date of submission of tender forms was again extended to October 4.
The tender committee, in its proceedings on October 7 at the office of the Social Welfare Director, had approved seven firms, including Zenith Enterprises which had submitted the ‘Swift Dzire’ car.
While the said firm was later declared unqualified in the fresh proceedings of the technical committee on October 10 on charges of fraud and forgery, eyebrows have been raised as other firms with fake and forged documents have been declared qualified by the committee.
There is also suspicion among many whether the tender committee overlooked and allowed gross violations of the provisions of the NIT with mala-fide intentions to approve particular firms.
As highlighted in the proceedings of the technical committee itself on October 10, copies of registration certificates of five vehicles submitted by Jai Hanuman could not be verified online yet, the same firm was approved.
The committee, nevertheless, cautioned that the RCs will be verified through the transport department and the bids will be rejected or cancelled and necessary legal action taken against the bidder if malpractice or forgery is detected.
Further, the tender committee has been accused of overlooking the violation of provisions by another firm named NE Logistic.
As per documents available with the Imphal Free Press, the work completion certificate submitted by the said firm for financial year 2020-21 stated that the work with contract value of Rs 3,48,00,000 was completed on March 31, 2021 and the same certificate provided the work order being WO No 172/630100742 dated April 1, 2020.
However, the actual work order was issued only on July 8, 2021, which points to the possibility of the work completion certificate being fake since the work order was issued after completion of work.
Notably, one of the aggrieved contractors had petitioned the Social Welfare minister over the alleged malpractices in the tendering process.
In the complaint, it was alleged that almost all the firms declared qualified by the committee violated at least one of the eligibility criteria for bidders/tenderers like having a minimum experience of two years in transportation, possessing a minimum fleet of five trucks owned in the name of the bidder firm, having a minimum annual turnover of not less that Rs 2 crore during the last two financial years.
It may be mentioned here that the alleged scandalous affairs in the tender process unfolded after the Supreme Court of India’s direction against the non-issuance of fresh NIT after 2018 for transportation of rice and micronutrients for Anganwadi centres on November 12, 2021.
The apex court had opined that “everybody is happy, namely, the officers of the state government, more particularly the officers of the social welfare department and the contractors and it appears that the state is not interested in issuing fresh NIT.”
Whether the present scandalous affairs are perpetuated by government officials remains unanswered.