HT Special: PMC paying prices higher than government e-marketplace rates
In an apparent case of draining the civic body exchequer, the price fixed by the central government for purchase of an LCD (liquid crystal display) projector is Rs 33,000, but Pune municipal corporation (PMC) has been purchasing these at an inflated rate of Rs 98,500 which is three times higher.
In the case of LCD TVs of 32 inches, the PMC’s purchase price has been found to be 1.3 times higher than the price fixed by the government. The story is the same with a number of electronic and electrical products purchased by the PMC where the department scheduled rates (DSR) fixed by the civic body are far higher as compared to the central government’s government e-marketplace (GeM) rates.
Over a five-month period from February 2018, the PMC was forced to cancel three tenders after the discrepancy of inflated rates was pointed out by alert residents and civic activists belonging to the voluntary group, Sajag Nagrik Manch. While the tender for purchase of a public address system valued at Rs 70 lakh was cancelled on June 22, the other two tenders worth Rs 10 lakh each for the purchase of CCTV surveillance systems were cancelled in February 2018.
When the inflated rates (DSR) were pointed out by HT, Shriniwas Kandul, chief superintendent of PMC electrical department, acknowledged the discrepancy and assured to rectify the prices in the document used by the PMC.
“While I accept the faulty prices in the current DSR, I have already ordered compilation of the new DSR and wiped off the existing document. After I joined as the chief of the department, we prepared a new draft and are currently conducting a new survey,” Kandul said.
He said that as a result of discrepancy in the DSR, he had cancelled three tenders over a period of six months. “We will soon come up with a new price list and till then will follow the prices mentioned in the DSR of the department of public works department, government of Maharashtra,” Kandul said.
However, Mahendra Shinde, executive engineer, PMC electricity department, was agitated and angry on being pointed out about the faulty prices in the DSR.
Refusing to accept the faulty prices, he was instead furious on his senior officials for accepting that the earlier DSR had inflated prices.
He said, “There is nothing wrong in the prices mentioned in our DSR. We have done a proper market survey and arrived at the price which is mentioned. Few city-based NGOs have made it a fashion to make false accusations on the PMC. However, all these allegations are baseless.”
Sajag Nagrik Manch’s Vishwas Sahasrabuddhe who has been raising the issue over the past many months with PMC officials said, “The problem persists since a long time and I have been speaking to many officials till now. However, all my efforts went futile until the current chief of electrical department cancelled three tenders.”
While the move was welcome, the arbitrary action cannot be a permanent solution, he pointed out. “The DSR has to be reviewed once every year to compare the prices mentioned to that of the market rates. In the current case, neither was the DSR reviewed nor were the prices changed,” he said.
He stressed that the PMC must stop using the DSR and immediately switch to the GeM rates.
Kandul reiterated said that till the time the new DSR is prepared, the PMC will follow prices mentioned in the state’s DSR which is issued by the PWD and is the same as GeM rates.
The citizens’ forum has, however, demanded that the PMC commissioner Saurabh Rao must look into the matter and immediately take up the issue with all the stakeholders involved. Sahasrabuddhe also urged the civic chief to conduct an independent inquiry on all the tenders where purchases were made at inflated rates.