The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been insisting that the bigger companies that handle infrastructure projects have their own reasons for staying away from bidding for the Rs 550-crore road project, but a close look at clauses and conditions in the tender show that they are designed unattractively for anyone but its usual set of contractors.
The BMC, for instance, has split the tender into nine small parts of Rs 60 crore each. A major infrastructure contractor, requesting anonymity, said: “We had indicated that we would want work on a larger scale because the costs involved for big firms is more. Taking up projects worth Rs 50 crore to Rs 60 crore was not feasible.”
Civic officials push the blame on to the state-appointed Standing Technical Advisory Committee (STAC). “We knew bigger firms won’t respond if we have small packets of Rs 50-60 crore each. Our plan was to have two or three contracts of Rs 150 crore to Rs 200 crore. But the STAC refused to allow this,” said a civic official, requesting anonymity.
One of the tender conditions states that contractors bidding for concrete work must have their own ready-mix concrete plant while those bidding for asphalt work must have asphalt plants within the limits of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
If they didn’t, they would have to pay an additional deposit. “Many big contractors don’t have such plants. But most regular BMC contractors have their own plants within the MMR,” said another official.
Regular contractors also did their best to ensure the contracts go to them, said a senior corporator from the ruling Shiv Sena. “The contractors tried to impress upon officials them that though the bigger players may bag contracts, they would sub-contract them to the usual contractors,” the corporator said.
One of the nine contractors shortlisted for the project said: “For bigger firms, it is difficult to work with rates as low as the BMC estimated. If the BMC really wanted to include the bigger firms, they should have quoted a higher cost estimate and had bigger contract packets.”
Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta admitted the BMC had not made the tenders attractive enough. “We could have increased the incentive for bigger players by increasing the packet size and we did that. But it wasn’t big enough.”