Monday, July 15, 2024
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HC quashes MePGCL work order

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SHILLONG, June 7: The High Court of Meghalaya has quashed a work order of Meghalaya Power Generation Corporation Limited (MePGCL) awarded to a contractor as the process involved “bid rigging and cartelization”.
A registered Class-I contractor (Odimar Syiemsad of Langkyrding Mihngi, East Khasi Hills) under the MePGCL had filed a writ petition in the court, challenging the issuance of the work order to a bidder.
The court said the MePGCL had on July 4, 2023 issued a tender notice for the construction of a multi-purpose indoor stadium at Nongtrai village in Mawsynram for an estimated value of Rs 2,87,89,896 for bidding through e-tender, on a two-bid system (technical and financial) from registered Class-I contractors under MePGCL.
“The petitioner along with four others…participated in the bid process and on 26-07-2023, when the bids were opened, it was found that respondents No 9, 10 & 11 (Taibin Warjri, Connie F Sawkmie and Collinstar Sawkmie) and Mostophar Kharkongor, had quoted identical rates, whereas the bid of the petitioner was fractionally higher,” the court said.
“The petitioner thereafter, being surprised that there was no system of technical evaluation, represented before the respondents and on not receiving any positive response, caused him to file further representations and letters, but however, by a work order dated 15-02-2024, the contract was awarded to Taibin Warjri who had quoted identical rates,” the court said.
Being aggrieved, the petitioner approached the court.
After hearing the arguments, the court observed apparent collusion and manipulation and stated there is no doubt it is very disturbing as tender matters concern the distribution of public largesse and as such, demand a high degree of transparency and probity on the part of the authorities who decide on such matters.
The court said in the instant case, it appears that the tender committee had taken upon itself the task of settling the contract, when the same is within the discretion of the owner of the contract, or the authority that had floated the NIT.
“The submission of identical rates by the four tenderers is against the basic principles of competitive bidding and is contrary to the purpose and concept of an open tender system. Such practices need to be discouraged and, in the event, as has occurred in the present case, especially in an item wise contract, a detailed cost analysis should have been gone into by the tendering committee, to arrive at the most suitable bidder as all the rates quoted were identical,” the court said.
“Though it has been submitted that there has been no cartelization, and that no loss would be caused to the public exchequer as the four bidders had quoted the estimated value as given in the NIT, however the fact that, without there being any other evaluation of the bids on the technical aspect, more so when all the bids were identical, and the settlement arrived at by inviting the bidders to negotiate and come to an understanding among themselves speaks otherwise,” the court further said in its order.
It observed that there is a serious flaw in the decision-making process, inasmuch as, there exists elements and instances of “procedural impropriety, irrationality, arbitrariness and unreasonableness on the part of the tender committee which has gone beyond its jurisdiction and mandate, apart from the award of contract also being the product of cartelization”.
“The very fact that the respondents No 9, 10 & 11 have chosen to stay away and not participate in the instant proceedings in spite of receipt of notice, fortifies the statements and averments that have been made by the writ petitioner in the writ petition on the aspect of bid rigging and cartelization, as also the vitiation of the entire tender process,” the court said.
“For the reasons aforementioned, and in the facts and circumstances of the case, the instant writ petition is allowed and the impugned work order dated 15-02-2024, awarded to the respondent No 9 (Taibin Warjri), is set aside and quashed. The writ petition accordingly stands closed and disposed of,” it added.

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