MoIC alleged of awarding contract work without following procurement procedures

Dechen Dolkar  

Misappropriation of funds through errors, payments for goods not as per specification, forgery and tampering of records and intentional double claims are some of the irregularities unearthed in the construction, supply and installation of transformers and other related work for 15 EV charging stations around the country.

The Information and Communications Ministry (MoIC) in December 2020 awarded the contract to Jigme Dorji Construction Private Limited (JD Constructions). It was learnt that while the amount quoted was Nu 24.29M and the departmental estimate Nu 20M, the final payment made was Nu 48.31M.

The excess payment was made for the procurement of works due to errors in the quantification of works amounting to Nu 4.7M. Error in measurement of GI chain-linked mesh fence constructed led to cost escalation. 

The ministry claimed that it was an arithmetic error and it was learnt that JD Construction had agreed to pay back the excess amount.  About Nu 6.1M was found to be paid for equipment installed at the site, but the equipment was not as per the required specifications.

It was also learnt that a double payment of Nu 787,885M was made for the erection, testing and commissioning of a 11KV route marker using various units of measurement. It was 13 times more than the payment estimated.

The ministry was accused of  awarding  transportation and installation of charging machines as additional work to JD Construction, deviating from the procurement norms amounting to Nu 4M.

The former procurement officer, former deputy chief accounts officer, and two officials from the project management unit proposed to award the work to JD Construction. The proposal was approved by the former officiating director of the Directorate of Service, MoIC.

However, DoS without the approval of the finance committee and without submitting the basis of cost had proposed to award the contract to JD Construction. Although the cost was to be negotiated, the contractor had not  submitted the cost estimate. Neither had the contractor drawn contract agreement  to execute the additional contract.

The ministry responded that the work was awarded directly based on the simplified procurement process under Covid-19 situation issued by the finance ministry. Officials claimed that  it was based on the contractor’s past performance, one of the eligibility criteria in the simplified procurement process.

Illegal award to GY Venture

The ministry was alleged to have  awarded a contract illegally to a private company, GY Venture, to supply and install video conference equipment worth Nu 1M.

The proposal to revamp and equip the conference hall at an estimated cost of Nu 7M was submitted by the former procurement officer, former deputy chief accounts officer, former officiating director, DoS and Chief ICT officer with permission from the Secretary.

It was found that there was no evidence or record of the tender having floated through the e-GP system. There was also no minutes of the tender award committee meeting, nor the minutes of the tender evaluation committee’s meeting.

The amount, however, was recovered last year.

The ministry claimed that the ICT division conducted a survey on the technical and costing aspects of the equipment and re-appropriated the unutilised and surrendered funds to purchase the VC equipment. The committee also discussed the need to procure the equipment for the minister and the secretary as most of the high-level meetings related to Covid responses were done virtually among secretaries and Cabinet Ministers.

The supply of spare parts for the video conferencing equipment amounting Nu 2.32M was also found have been illegally awarded.  When reviewing the tender ID in the e-GP system, it was found that the given ID was related to a cancelled bidder from Thimphu Thromde.

The ministry was also alleged to have made a payment of Nu 2.8M for service not provided from the firewall licence renewal budget of DoS.

During the FY 2019-20 and FY 2020-21, tenders for the renewal of checkpoint and checkpoint event management for ICTD were floated. The work was awarded to Zealous System Private Limited at Nu 400,000 and Nu 992,658 respectively when the tender was still under evaluation mode in the e-GP system.

Similarly, the FortiGate firewall licence renewal for RSTA Thimphu and four regional offices for FY 2019-20 was awarded to Link Unify amounting Nu 1.4M although the bid amount was same to Bitcom Bhutan at Nu 350,000 per license. For the FY 2020-21, it was also awarded to Link Unify without floating tender at Nu 350,000 per licence. For FY 2021-22 it was awarded to Sonam Enterprise without following any tender procedure with validity up to June 2023. The payment was made in June 2022 amounting to Nu 385,000.

All the payments were made a year before the validity of the license end.