How a citizens’ group exposed bid-rigging scam in Pune Municipal Corporation
It was an anonymous email that triggered the process: Nagrik Chetna Manch
It was on the basis of preliminary work and prima facie evidence presented by Nagrik Chetna Manch (NCM), a group of citizen-activists, that rigging in the tendering process in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) was brought on record for the very first time.
Following a complaint by NCM, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in its final order on May 2 imposed a fine of Rs 3.57 crore on six firms for colluding with civic officials and rigging the bid while filing tenders for thermal composting garbage plants in 2014.
The nexus between PMC officials and contractors for rigging the bids which was investigated into by CCI, was exposed in detail by Hindustan Times in a series of reports in October 2017.
The Competition Act, 2002 was passed by the Parliament, to which the President accorded assent in January, 2003. It was subsequently amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007.
Nagrik Chetna Manch president, Major General SCN Jatar revealed that it was an anonymous email that led to the entire expose.
“I got a tip off about this cartel. While I was toiling hard to find the irregularities in the tender process, I received an anonymous email from a lawyer who refused to reveal his identity. The email directed me to check CCI norms on the website. The person who tipped me off about the cartel also gave me a hint of how it violated the Competition law, ” Jatar said.
When he checked the documents in detail, he found that the directors of the various participant companies were the same and had just registered companies in different names.
From the very beginning Jatar was suspicious of the tendering process in PMC. “With the background research I did, it was evident that tendering process had some irregularities,” he said.
Consequently, it was in May, 2015 that he first filed a complaint but it got rejected as it was not in the prescribed format. He submitted the complaint again and it was admitted by the commission.
CCI in 2015 started the inquiry based on the prima facie reports and submitted the final report on November 16, 2016, exposing the nexus between the contractors and the PMC officials.
While six contractors of the PMC were fined a Rs3.57 crore by the CCI, the PMC is yet to take action against its own officials involved in the bid-rigging scam.
“Following CCI report, we wrote to PMO to get the process fast tracked. However, PMO in return directed our complaint to the state government and eventually it was directed back to the PMC. PMC has failed to respond to our complaint.”
We would not have written to PMO in the first place, if PMC agreed to act upon those who are guilty in the bid rigging scam, added Jatar.
Pune municipal commissioner Saurabh Rao has termed the bid rigging scam exposed by NCM as ‘a very serious systemic failure’. He has promised to rectify the system and conduct an unbiased probe into the conduct of the civic officials involved in the scam.
‘Our objective is to root out corruption’