Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Palike turns blind eye to transparency

Palike turns blind eye to transparency

Y Maheswara ReddyExpress News ServiceFirst Published : 24 May 2010 04:45:37 AM ISTLast Updated : 24 May 2010 05:53:54 AM IST
BANGALORE: The contracts were worth Rs 19.9 crore and they were awarded in violation of the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement Act.
Between 2004 and 2008, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) brought in four firms, all owned by one family, to impart computer training to students of SC/ST and economically weaker sections in the city.
In four years, Systel Infos, Synergy Computer Education, Softpro Technologies and San IT Solutions Pvt Ltd were granted contracts to set up 24 training centres in the city.
Systel Infos is owned by Murlidhara Halappa, while his brother N H Ambaprasad owns Synergy Computer Education. Ambaprasad's wife Vasundhara AGK owns Softpro Technologies and San IT Solutions Pvt Ltd.
A fifth company, Marcos Softech Ltd, got two only centres.
No tenders floated
For the first training centre set up in Ward No 51 of Bangalore in 2004, no tender was floated though the contract was worth Rs 71.46 lakh.
According to the KTPP Act, tenders have to be invited for all projects worth more than Rs 1 lakh.
No background check
In a note (dated 19.01.2004), the then BBMP commissioner, M R Srinivasa Murthy, recommended the approval of CMC Ltd to the Committee on Education and Social Justice for setting up the centre.
The committee, however, passed a resolution (date 04.02.2004) approving Systel Infos, Bangalore, for the centre.
It did not run a background check on the firm or assess its capability to conduct the training.
The resolution stated the rate quoted by Systel Infos was less than the one quoted by CMC Ltd.
Murthy said he could not remember the case well.
"It is difficult for me to recall an incident that took place six years ago," he said.
Systel Infos had quoted Rs 3,500 per candidate as course fee and Rs 7,35,800 for setting up one server and nine nodes with the necessary software as against CMC Ltd's rate of Rs 3,600 per candidate as course fee and Rs 8,91,500 for setting up one server and 10 nodes.
Murthy, who is now the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission chairman, approved the centre for Rs 8,46,107 with training expenses worth Rs 63 lakh.
The total amount involved was Rs 71.46 lakh for a duration of three years, which was okayed without calling for tenders.
The firm, owned by Muralidhar Halappa, was awarded a contract for the second time when the BBMP issued tender notification (vide No.BMP/social/tender/comp/trg/200405) dated 20072004.
CMC Ltd and Keonics were the other bidders.
Systel Infos was chosen over the other two despite it not having a clean past.
One of the terms to qualify for bidding is that the bidder should not be facing nor have faced any judicial trial or departmental inquiry.
Tainted past
In 200304, Systel Infos tied up with Electronic Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) for conducting computer training programme on behalf of the commissioner of Social Welfare Department.
The Karnataka Lokayukta had conducted raids on the training centres for alleged illegal favour extended by the then commissioner of the Social Welfare Department, K Shivaram.
The ECIL was also indicted for bad performance in conducting the training programmes.
Systel Infos declared that they have not faced any judicial inquiry and received Rs 55.81 lakh (Rs 8.46 lakh for hardware expenses and Rs 47.35 lakh towards course fee) from the BBMP for providing computer training to 1,353 students between 200407.
Halappa told The New Indian Express that there was no Lokayukta inquiry against either the ECIL or Systel Infos.
"The BBMP awarded the contract because my bid was lower than those made by others," he said.
Who is to be blamed?
The then BBMP mayor, P R Ramesh, cleared himself from all blame by saying his objective was to provide computer training to the students. "It is the duty of the BBMP officials to ensure that no violation of KTPP Act occurred," he said.
Under the Act, whoever contravenes the provision of the Act or rules is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with a fine of up to Rs 5,000.

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