THE way the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority selected the contractor, Danish joint venture Degremont-OTV, for its project meant to supply 500 million litres of treated water a day from the River Meghna to the city has raised questions. As New Age reported on Thursday, top DWASA officials first faced allegations of irregularities when seven of the nine interested companies were declared non-responsive on September 25, 2015 on charge of failing to comply with 25 technical criteria. The authorities then refused to open the financial proposal of WABAG-Technicas joint venture on November 16, a week before the deadline, paving the way for the Danish bidder to win the contracts uncontested, on the plea that the proposal was not ‘assessed as substantially responsive’. There are reasons to believe that the tender process was organised essentially to award the contracts to the Danish joint venture. Meanwhile, the financial proposal of the Danish company, opened on Tuesday, demanded Tk 3,172 crore for the contract — for the design and construction of a water treatment plant with a 21.5km water transmission pipeline from Meghna river at Araihazar to Gandharbpur in Narayanganj and for a three-year operation and maintenance of the facilities — 49 per cent higher than the estimated cost of Tk 2,100 crore while the WABAG-Technicas joint venture demanded about Tk 1,800 crore.
Moreover, the Danish bidder’s technical proposal did not include a pre-sedimentation reservoir and a balancing storage at the raw water receiving chamber, mechanisms mandatory for a conventional water treatment plant to eliminate heavy solid materials such as silt from water and safe operation of the plant even in case of a sudden suspension of water supply from the river. The officials concerned have alleged that the absence of the reservoir may damage the water treatment plant in three years or so while the contractor selected offered a warranty period of only three years. They also said that the contractor may be able to pocket $10–$12 million because of not quoting the two major components of the plant. It is important to note that the WABAG-Technicas joint venture proposed supplying and installing the reservoir and storage without extra cost. It is true that the Danish government has agreed to fund the projects. But it is also true that all the Danish money will be given in loans and it is the people of Bangladesh who will have to repay them. In short, if the Danish bidder is allowed to implement the project as per the terms offered by the company, the project will not only fail to deliver expectedly but also cause the waste of a huge sum of public money.
The government immediately needs to look into the matter and order a re-tender of the project in a transparent manner. It needs to realise that awarding the project in such a questionable manner, as experiences say, may embolden the contractor to rule the roost even in case there is a compromise on work quality.
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