ROURKELA: Even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probes into alleged irregularities in award of last year’s annual maintenance of Oven Machine and Coke Dry Cooling Plant (CDCP) of the Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP), the firm under scanner has secured a fresh contract - this time, for the same annual work but at a much higher rate. Rourkela-based Reliable Hi-Tech Infrastructure Pvt Ltd (RHIPL) bagged the annual contract for the current financial year at `5.57 crore on May 10 whereas in 2017-18, it was awarded the work at `3.47 crore.
Needless to mention, the rate at which the contract has been awarded this year raised eyebrows. In October last year, the CBI had seized more files relating to the contract for annual maintenance of Oven Machine & CDCP. The inquiry into the contract came up after the Central agency investigated the then Executive Director (Works) of RSP BP Verma who was arrested in January 2017 for alleged corruption in execution of different projects. Upon finding links between Verma and RHIPL, the CBI raided multiple business premises of the Reliable Group in August 2017.
The group is valued at over `1,000 crore. Besides projects of RSP, the RHIPL has also executed electrical, automation, instrumentation and other jobs at the Jagdishpur unit of SAIL in Uttar Pradesh. An Internal Office Memo of the Vigilance Department of RSP marked ‘confidential’ is with this paper which on October 12, 2017 had written to the DGM (Tech) in the ED (Works) Secretariat that CBI had sought the original note-sheet and few other document relating to the contract in connection with its Case No.PE-01(A)/2017.
A copy of the notesheet in question is also available with this paper. The note-sheet, dated October 28, 2016, reveals that the then DGM (Technical) R Ranjan, on behalf of the then ED (Works) Verma, had noted “whether adequate measures have been taken in eligibility criteria for the same”. Government audit sources and RSP insiders said the noting was ‘deliberate’ to seek a re-tender by changing the criteria so that it suits RHIPL. Documentary evidences show after the open tender, the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) recommended RHIPL, Utkal Projects Pvt Ltd (UPPL) and Tata Projects Ltd (TPL) as technically fit.
In fact, UPPL which executed similar jobs at NINL was the top contender with its technical abilities and competitive price but the eligibility criteria was changed to eliminate UPPL in the re-tender and
RHIPL bagged the job. Well-placed sources in the RSP said amid limited availability of firms in annual maintenance jobs, the process of tender and role of Indent Screening Committee needs scanning.
When the PR Department of the RSP was contacted through e-mail about how RHIPL was awarded the contract at a higher rate, it said, “The issue is being investigated by the CBI. As such, it will not be judicious on our part to comment.”