Tenders get short shrift

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The Organising Committee didn’t even open the bids that quoted lower rates for scoring systems. Brijesh Pandey gets the inside dope

Decisive action Officials exit Verma’s house after the raid
Photo: Express Photo

THE NOOSE is tightening around the brass of the 2010 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC). In a development that could have serious ramifications for Kalmadi & Co., the CBI, acting on a specific tip, raided the OC office on the night of 2 December and seized several incriminating files. The most important recovery was the sealed tender of MSL Spain, which had submitted a lower bid for scoring systems but didn’t win the tender. The raid came close on the heels of the one on 30 November at the residences of five top OC officials, including Secretary-General Lalit Bhanot, Director-General VK Verma and Joint D-G RK Sancheti.

According to sources in the OC, the investigating agency received an anonymous call after the raids. The caller said that the awarding of contract worth Rs. 107 crore to a Swiss firm was a sham and there were various tenders lying in a particular office that had not been opened at all. Acting on this tip-off, the CBI conducted raids there and found several tender documents. Many were lying unopened.

The CBI segregated the tenders on the basis on the deadline given for submission. Later, it discovered that MSL Spain’s tender was not even opened despite the fact that it was received much before the deadline and fulfilled all criterion.

When the CBI officials looked into the tender award, they were in for a shock. The contract for the time-scoring board had been awarded to Swiss Timing for Rs. 107 crore, whereas MSL Spain had submitted a bid for just Rs. 48 crore, a difference of Rs. 59 crore. Clearly, OC officials were not interested in giving the contract to the supplier bidding the lowest price, but to someone they were in touch with.

CBI sources added that this recovery of tender papers offers direct evidence of the way tenders were awarded for the Commonwealth Games and clearly indicated that money had exchanged hands.

According to sources, immediately after the raids, several other OC members started receiving anonymous calls in a bid to find out who tipped off the CBI.

Following this discovery, the CBI conducted raids at 11 places in Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon and filed an FIR against Bhanot, Verma, Sancheti and others under Section 420 (cheating), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Swiss company was also named in the FIR.

The CBI noted, “The accused officers have abused their official position and entered into a criminal conspiracy with a Switzerland-based company to cheat the Government of India in awarding contract to the company at an exorbitant price, thereby causing massive loss to the State exchequer.” They say the other firm (MSL Spain) was wrongfully eliminated at the pre-qualification bid stage.

When contacted, Bhanot claimed that he was not aware of such raids and was not in a position to confirm the news.

The awarding of the scoring systems contract to the Swiss bidder caused a loss of Rs. 59 crore

The CBI has already arrested three OC members, TS Darbari, Sanjay Mohindroo and M Jaychandran in the forged email case related to awarding of work to AM Car and Van Hire Ltd for the Queen’s Baton relay. There were allegations that these officials, in conspiracy with a transport company and its director, awarded work to AM Car at exorbitant rates without following the tender process properly.

Two emails were forged to justify the selection and it was falsely claimed by these officials that the company was on the panel of the Indian High Commission in London. The scam came to light when the OC asked for a value-added tax refund to the tune of £14,000 in March 2009 for payment to AM Films.

Verma, whose house was raided in the Rs. 107 crore scam, has already been questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in the Queen’s Baton relay case. CBI sources say that with almost everybody other than OC Chairman Suresh Kalmadi either being jailed or raided, chances of Kalmadi surviving the onslaught look slim.

brijesh@tehelka.com

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