Committee members rebut Karnataka officer’s allegations
Claims and allegations made by D. Roopa, Secretary – PCAS, Home Department, who is in the dock over alleged unauthorised intervention in the ₹619 crore Safe City Project tender, were met with strong rebuttals from members of the Chief Secretary-led State Level Apex Committee monitoring the tender.
The State government has instituted a probe by Bengaluru Police Commissioner Kamal Pant over the call Ms. Roopa made to the Project Consultant allegedly requesting a copy of the classified Request for Proposal (RFP) before its publication.
Hemant Nimbalkar, Member Secretary of the Apex Committee, who held a press conference on Sunday, responded to allegations of “bias in tender drafting” by Ms. Roopa and said, “There has been no allegation till date that the RFP has been drafted with bias, not even by the bidders.” Attempts were being made to cast aspersions on the process, he said.
Ms. Roopa had claimed there were two complaints alleging irregularities in the tender pending as of June 2020. However, there is no information on whether these complaints have been closed. In her letter to the Chief Secretary, she had claimed to be a “whistleblower” who was “studying” the tender file and found “serious irregularities in tender drafting”. She said that the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), Home Department, had given her the project file to “study”, implying that her intervention was not unauthorised.
However, this has been denied by Rajneesh Goel, ACS, Home Department, who has released a list of seven questions addressed to Ms. Roopa challenging her to produce evidence to the claims she has made. “The file has never been marked to you and also does not contain any observations/ comments by you,” Mr. Goel’s note said.
Ms. Roopa had also alleged that “Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) was wrongly disqualified in the tender by the tender scrutiny committee and tender was sought to be given to a particular vendor. BEL complained to PMO and this led to cancellation of biased tender”. This charge was dubbed “infactual” by Mr. Nimbalkar on Sunday.
Till date, the government has called for tenders for the project thrice, the third one under way presently. “In Call-I, BEL never participated and the tender was cancelled in January 2020, as all three participants could not qualify the pre-qualification requirements for the tender,” Mr. Nimbalkar said. Call-II saw BEL participate and its bid was accepted after technical qualification. It is clear that claims made that BEL was wrongly disqualified is thus proven to be false, his statement said.
However, BEL did write to PMO and played a role in the tender being cancelled. A copy of the letter available with The Hindu shows the objections raised by BEL were not on the draft of the RFP. The letter takes objection to Matrix Solutions and Surveillance Pvt. Ltd., one of the bidders, quoting Chinese brand Huawei for all major elements like cameras, servers and storage.
Use of Chinese products
“The usage of Chinese products in this important project of public security poses a great security risk as enormous data of residents of Bengaluru can be accessed by other than intended users and can be used for tracking and monitoring,” the letter from July 6, 2020, said.
Ten days later, the State government cancelled Call – II of the tender as “Karnataka Government issued an order banning Chinese make/ Chinese origin products in any procurement process including ongoing tender process for procurement in the light of national security and was never cancelled for non-existent allegations about biased and unfair tender,” Mr. Nimbalkar said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Roopa, on Sunday, alleged that Mr. Nimbalkar was “misleading and giving misinformation to higher ups in the government” and that there were several violations in the tender presently underway and demanded a probe into his role.
Call–III of the tender is under way and January 8 is the last date for submission of bids.