After FA Enterprises in Konkan, another big contractor could land in trouble for rigging tender procedures to bag an irrigation contract.
With the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) in Nagpur wrapping up its report on the Gosikhurd project, a Mumbai-based firm, D Thakkar Construction Private Limited, is under the scanner for its role in bagging the Rs 56-crore tender for the tail canal of the Mokhabardi lift irrigation scheme in the Gosikhurd project.
It has come to light that in the Gosikhurd project, D Thakkar Construction Private Limited, in joint venture with another firm, won the contract on the basis of fake or forged work experience certificates. For obtaining the contract, the firm showed as its past experience work undertaken by its sister concern, SN Thakkar, which also participated in the bidding process.
The firm stated SN Thakkar had sub-contracted some projects to it, but documents submitted to the ACB show this is incorrect. An RTI query in the Gosikhurd lining work revealed the work was not sub-contracted by the SN Thakkar firm to anyone. The remaining projects have been cited by SN Thakkar as work executed by them to bag other irrigation projects in Vidarbha.
While D Thakkar and S N Thakkar have competed as rivals for bagging irrigation contracts, their two main directors, Pravin Thakkar and Jigar Thakkar, are common to both the firms and were living in the same house in 2009. A staffer on D Thakkar’s firm had signed the tender document for SN Thakkar, ruling out any element of secrecy or competition in the bid. In the balance sheets of the firms in 2009 (when the project was tendered), they were declared as ‘associate concerns’. Despite this, irrigation officials accepted both in the first round, along with another firm, Srinivasa Construction.
Srinivasa Construction is also a suspect firm, said an ACB official, as its deposit required for the tendering process was paid through the bank account of the D Thakkar firm.
The work order for the tender was given in August 2009. A month earlier, former water resources minister Ajit Pawar and the executive director of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation, Devendra Shirke, approved hiking the original estimate of the tender by 10.76%, from Rs5.09 crore to Rs56.88 crore.
A hike of more than 5 % requires clearance of the water resources secretary, and so the cost of the tender was first hiked to Rs54 crore, citing inflation. This brought down the increase in the tender cost to 4.98 %.
“The entire tender process was flawed,” said Anil Kilor of Jan Manch, NGO that filed a petition in the scam. “We have submitted documents to expose the nexus of contractors-officials-politicians.”
“These projects were selected for inquiry as they have the most irregularities. We plan to submit the report in eight to ten days,” said Rajiv Jain, superintendent of police, ACB, Nagpur.
What the company has to say:
* The firm D Thakkar Construction Private Limited, through an email, refuted all the charges made against them.
* “We, as R.J.Shah (51%)(Senior partner ), DTCPL (49%) JV [joint venture] did not submit any forged past work experience certificates. We as a JV did have sufficient past experience while bidding for this project,” the email said.
* It clarified, “Mr. Pravin and Jigar Thakkar were and are common directors in both the companies but other directors are different. There is no restriction in the tender documents against this. Agencies D Thakkar Constructions Pvt. Ltd (DTCPL) and SN Thakkar Construction Pvt Ltd have been registered under company Act 1956 as different companies and they have separate identities.”
* The firm also clarified on the issue of paying the earnest money deposit for Srinivasa Construction for the tender document, saying they owed this firm Rs 1.04 crore.
* “Against this liability, our accounts department issued them the amount of DD Rs 25,54,000 (for EMD).”
* The firm’s technical director, RK Soni, in another email pointed out that in their representation to the ACB, they had said they did not conceal anything while applying for the tender and because land acquisition was not done for almost five-and-a-half years, their company was put to a heavy loss.