The Madras High Court would decide on Tuesday the fate of a tender floated by Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) in November 2016 inviting international bids for designing, building and maintaining for 20 years, a 150 million litres per day (MLD) desalination plant, based on Sea Water Reverse Osmosis at Nemmili on East Coast Road here.
Justice T. Raja has posted a writ petition that sought for quashing the 2016 tender notification for final hearing on Tuesday and directed CMWSSB to maintain status quo till then. Ranchi-based firm Singh Electricals and Constructions, one of the bidders in the tender process, had filed the writ petition. It also sought for a consequential direction to call for fresh tenders.
According to the petitioner firm, the proposed plant was a major project aimed at solving drinking water problem. It was worth several thousand crore of rupees and hence the government had decided to implement it by obtaining loan from a German-based funding agency and through Central assistance. International bids were also invited for it.
Initially, January 19, 2017 was fixed as the last date for submission of the tenders. Then, the indirect tax laws in the country were totally different with the State governments and the Centre levying different quantum of taxes. From July 1, 2017, a common Goods and Services Tax (GST) came into force resulting in complete overhaul of the tax structure.
In the meantime, the desalination plant’s tender process also got extended from time to time because it had to issue various addendums to several queries raised by the bidders with regard to the tender process. The last reply to the queries was given on August 11, 2017 and the CMWSSB wanted the bidders to submit their tenders by August 30, 2017.
The very short time period fixed for submission of the bids put the petitioner firm, which had executed many drinking water and sanitation projects in Jharkhand, in a disadvantageous position. The firm did not have enough time to study the tax structure and submit a competitive bid. Subsequently, the tenders of four foreign and one Indian company were opened, the petition said.
However, all five bids were rejected by a Gurgaon based private company engaged for evaluation. “Therefore, as of now there are no bidders for the project,” the petitioner claimed. It alleged that CMWSSB had, nevertheless, shortlisted two of the five bidders by extending the validity of the 2016 tender notification in violation of the Tamil Nadu Transparency in Tenders Act of 1998.