Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Contract for primary school kits: HC upholds Vadodara DDO’s decision

The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday upheld the decision of Vadodara District Development Officer (DDO) to award the contract for primary education kits for schools in the district to the lowest bidder. It was an intelligent decision of the DDO that saved the state exchequer Rs 47 lakh. But it did result in a court case by the rejected bidders and personal vilification campaign against him. The HC also heaped praise on the watchfulness with which the department functioned.
On February 27 this year, Vadodara's Primary Education Department floated a tender to call bids for supplying primary education tools for about 2,300 schools. Rs 2.3 crore was sanctioned by the state government for this. These kits comprise 17 educational items, like the compass, calculators, geometric models, models of vegetables, fruits and human anatomy and weights and measures. Its price for each school was fixed at Rs 10,000. By March 26, the department had received five bids - three of which quoted Rs 9,981, Rs 9,991 and Rs 10,000 respectively. Two bids were rejected on technical grounds.The three bids were finalised on April 14, a day before the officer in-charge was transferred.
When Ravikant Arora took charge as the DDO for Vadodara in April, he came across the three bids and felt something was amiss. On April 26, the DDO returned the file with a note stating, "With utmost care it must be seen that the rates of these three seem to be on higher side. The technical committee must re-examine if the other bids can be opened or not."
Accordingly, in May, two initial bids that were rejected on technical grounds were opened and the tender was eventually awarded to one bidder, Education Emporium, that had quoted Rs 7,839. An officer of the department says, "The DDO had raised a point that the three bids that were finalised had a very narrow price difference, which was suspicious."
However, as soon as the tender was awarded to Education Emporium, the bidder from Ahmedabad, Ankur Enterprises, dragged the DDO office to court, filing a Special Civil Application in July this year and calling the reevaluation of the bids an act of 'malice' by the DDO. The HC heard the petition on eight occasions. In its ruling on Tuesday, HC observed that the "officer had acted with due diligence and had helped save Rs 47 lakh of the state exchequer by awarding the tender to the most deserving contractor."
Arora said, "We are happy that the court has upheld our decision and that we were able to make proper judgment in this matter. It is a cause of concern that the bids went unchecked to the final stage. We are contemplating action against those guilty of this and I will bring it to the notice of the state government."

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