How a bureaucrat ‘Sabotaged’ two major power schemes to allow outside agencies take over

Tendering of two projects that would have strengthened power distribution system in Kashmir was cleared thrice by power department’s own committees. However, commissioner secretary power Dheeraj Gupta got an outside agency to scrutinise the tendering once again, which eventually landed the project in the kitty of a central public sector undertaking.
Official data accessed by Kashmir Post show that power department’s contract committee, which has all chief engineers concerned as members and development commissioner power its head, had cleared the tenders for the Rs 598-crore Prime Minister’s Development Plan (PMDP-Rural) and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY). The two schemes are meant for strengthening distribution system and up gradation of power supply in rural Kashmir.
A panel headed by executive director (electric) Power Development Corporation and a detailed report by chief engineer project wing (Kashmir), had raised no objections to the cleared tendering process in favour of two companies.
However, the administrative department ordered probe into tendering of the project by an outside project monitoring agency, REC Power Distribution Company Ltd (RECPDCL), a subsidiary of Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) Limited.
In its report, the RECPDCL raised objections about the techno-economic qualification of the companies that had been awarded the contract for the approved six districts. Subsequently, the power department made the report as the basis for cancelling the tenders in September this year.
Less than two months later, the administrative department moved a proposal for involving central PSUs in execution of the works. At the last cabinet meeting in Srinagar before the government moved its seat to Jammu, it secured clearance for awarding the contracts to the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) as the project implementation agency (PIA).
Cancellation of tenders and subsequent developments came as a shocker to many senior officials in the department. However, Dheeraj Gupta defends the move saying the “probe” was ordered on the directions of junior power minister and PDP leader Syed Farooq Andrabi and tenders were cancelled “after going through all reports”.
Andrabi, however, said the decisions in the department are taken by power minister Nirmal Singh and Gupta.
“They had only sought my opinion about the issue,” Andrabi claimed.
A source said when the tendering process was about to be completed earlier this year, Gupta first ordered departmental level inquiries to assess whether the two shortlisted companies had requisite techno-economical qualification and if the due process had been followed.
“After detailed deliberations…and after examining the available documents both the bidders are qualifying techno-commercial criteria of the contract as stipulated in various clauses of standard bidding document,” reads report of the probe committee, adding that the role of the RECPDCL in the “entire case has remained unconvinced”.
Despite a clean chit, the administrative department went ahead with the recommendations of the RECPDCL to cancel the tenders and ordered fresh tendering, allegedly on the basis of a committee Gupta himself had constituted in his office.
“The shocking part is that RECPDCL as project monitoring agency was involved in the entire tendering process and many changes suggested by them were incorporated in the bidding process. In fact, it was an official from the RECPDCL who gave a power point presentation before the contract committee ahead of finalisation of the tenders. If they had noticed any deviation from laid down procedure why did their (RECPDCL) man sign minutes of the meeting of the contract committee for finalisation of the tenders,” said a member of the contract committee.
A separate official communication from chief engineer project wing Kashmir to development commissioner power also highlights the active role of RECPDCL in the entire tendering and evaluation process.
“Representatives of the RECPDCL remained actively involved in all pre and post tendering activities like preparation of standard bidding document, BOQs, NIT, technical specifications, pre-bidding meeting, issuance of corrigenda/amendments, presentation before contract committee, replying to the queries therein and justifying the reasonability of rates offered to lowest bidders. Therefore certain observations made by the RECPDCL in their verification report on tendering and qualification of bidders are quite surprising at this stage of the process, as these observations, if correct should have been made by RECPDCL during bid evaluation process as a responsible PMA,” reads the note.
While on one hand the administrative department power is in dock over cancellation of tenders and fresh allotments of works, the union power ministry has taken strong exception to the administrative department’s approval to high fee – about 11 percent of the total cost of the works – charged by the PGCIL as the PIA and RECPDL as the PMA.
Andrabi has, however, told Gupta that union power minister RK Singh has conveyed to the state power department that both the charges shouldn’t exceed 6 percent of the total cost.
Subsequently, the development commissioner power has written to the PIA as well as PMA to restrict the charges to six percent (5.5 percent for PIA and 0.5 percent for PMA).
“These fee charges were approved by the administrative department without following laid down procedures. The government should seriously look into why the tenders were cancelled earlier and who had approved high fees,” said a senior official.