THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The contract for the ambitious K-FON (Kerala Fibre Optic Network) project, approved by M Sivasankar, former IT secretary and principal secretary to Chief Minister, to a consortium, overlooking the cabinet’s decision has kicked up a row. The suspended IAS officer had allegedly given the contract for the project to ‘Bel Consortium’ by quoting 49 per cent higher than the actual amount for the bid in the tender process, without consulting the ministers and instructing Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd (KSITIL) to go ahead with the consortium.
The consortium for the project comprises public sector companies Railtel and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and private companies such as LS Cables and SRIT. Under the K-FON project, the state government aimed to link all the houses and offices in the state with an optical fibre network.To achieve this, the state government had allocated Rs 1,548 crore. The project, to be implemented by KSITIL and KSEB, will provide net connectivity to all families, including those which do not fall below the poverty line, at affordable rates.In the project, the government has called tender for Rs 1,028 crore.
However, three consortiums, including Bel consortium, have quoted Rs 1,548, Rs 1,729 and Rs 2,853 crore respectively. Bel consortium has quoted the lowest bid of Rs 1, 548 crore and Sivasankar had decided to give a contract to the consortium by informing the KSITIL. He also justified his action by stating a letter to KSITIL that the companies that took part in the Bel consortium were well-experienced and the state government could save Rs 89 crore. “As the monsoon is round the corner, the project can be completed on time only by selecting this consortium and the government will give the final nod shortly,” he had said in the letter. However, the cabinet gave the approval five months after he selected the consortium.