Action follows retendering of around 300 civic works

Contractors of Kochi Corporation have lowered their quotes for implementing civic works in as many as 200 projects confirming the allegation that the rates were jacked up earlier.

The contractors were forced to quote lower rates as the Kochi Corporation resorted to retendering of around 300 works following suspicion of corruption and malpractice. The civic body would have ended up paying more if it had allowed the contractors to carry out the work at the original rates.

There were allegations that a few contractors, acting hand in glove with some senior officials, had even replaced their tender documents after they were opened.

The corporation council had also expressed its mistrust on a senior official whom, many alleged to have led the manipulations.

Soumini Jain, chairperson of the Works Standing Committee, confirmed there was tender saving (money saved when contractors quote lesser rates) in 91 projects in transport sector, 60 in projects designed for reducing water logging and 36 in the projects for Scheduled Caste members.

According to Ms. Jain, the reduced rates may be interpreted as confirmation of corruption and also the willingness of the contractors to get the work done at lower rates. The monetary benefit of the retendering was being tabulated, she said.

One of the attractions of the retendered works is that the contractors will be paid as soon as the work is completed. However, in other cases, there would be a delay of three to four years in getting the payment. This factor might have prompted the contractors to reduce their rates, she said.

However, K.N. Sunilkumar, CPI(M) Parliamentary party secretary in the corporation council, refused to buy the arguments of Ms. Jain.

When contractors quote reduced rates during the retendering process, they would be making good for the loss by compromising on the quality of work.

One cannot expect the contractors to do the work at a loss, and the only option before them to prevent the loss would be to compromise on the quality of the work, argued Mr. Sunilkumar.

Moreover, the corporation sustained loss while retendering the projects.

He also alleged that the civic administrators were using coercive measures to make the contractors quote the earlier rate during the retendering process.

Reiterating the demand for a probe by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau into the whole episode, Mr. Sunilkumar said many contractors would be willing to depose before the agency about the malpractices involved in the deal.

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