Despite facing flak for poor quality roads in the city, the civic body seems to be doing little to contain errant contractors and allow new bidders to come in, as five contract bids opened last week show.
Between four of the contractors — Relcon Infraprojects, ME Infra, KR Constructions & Prakash Engineers and Infraprojects Ltd — whose bids the civic body is scrutinising, they have won six of the 41 roadwork contracts and have bid for at least 25 of them.
Incidentally, for the major roads contracts the civic body awarded recently, it had tried to rope in major firms to build the city's roads, but not much came of it.
A senior civic official from the roads department said: “These few contractors frequently bid, and bid low so that they retain their hold over most contracts allotted. Such a practice kills competition and ensures that most contracts land in the kitty of the same group of contractors.”
One of the four contractors, who chose to remain anonymous, agreed that this is indeed the case. “It’s true that only a handful of us keep quoting. Companies from outside this group find it difficult to work with the constraints and pressures of working with the civic body. Hence, inevitably, most contracts are awarded to the same group of contractors.”
Pukhraj Shah of ME Infra, which has bid for at least 12 contracts and has bagged one of them, defended the small pool of contractors. Shah said, “Not many contractors have the resources and the money to bid for so many projects. Hence, it might appear that only a few contractors keep bidding every time.”
Relcon’s Tejas Shah said that there is nothing illegal about contractors bagging more projects. “There is no cap on how many contracts one can bid for. If we have the capacity to execute these works, then why should we not bid for them?” Relcon has, in the recent past, bid for at least 10 contracts and bagged two.
Chief engineer (roads) Satish Badwe did not respond despite repeated attempts to contact him. However, another civic official on condition of anonymity said that the solution lies in tightening the screws. “We should set stringent criteria that ensures that the same contractor cannot keep bidding and winning.
For instance, criteria regarding the staff and equipment needed in a project can be tightened so that contractors cannot show the same staff and equipment for the new projects they bid for.”