Chinese company Sinohydro Corporation, which has kept the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway Expansion project stalled for two years, may bag the Padma Bridge River Training Project by offering a questionably lower price.
The Chinese company is supposed to be ineligible to take part in this massive tender as it is facing the World Bank's “early temporary suspension” for suspected wrongdoings. As per tender rule, the government is supposed to disqualify such a bidder.
Sinohydro, Korean Hyundai and Belgian Jan De Nul submitted financial proposals to the Bridges Division on June 19 and evaluation of their bids is going on.
Sources say Sinohydro has offered to carry out river training works for the Padma Bridge construction for Tk 9,224 crore. It has, at a later stage, additionally offered a 5.6 percent discount on its offer, slashing its price down to Tk 8,778 crore.
Hyundai and Jan De Nul have offered Tk 12,122 crore and Tk 12,324 crore for the same job respectively.
Sinohydro snatched the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway Expansion job by making a similarly low offer in 2010. But later it totally stopped the expansion works in a 140 km part of the highway and started demanding higher payment. Till date, the company has completed less than 50 percent of work that was supposed to be completed by December 2013.
Its delay strategy has now doubled the project cost from Tk 1,655 crore.
But its pitiable performance in the highway project had never been penalised by blacklisting. At times, Communication Minister Obaidul Quader blasted the company for delaying the work, but in general the government is persuading the company to finish the job.
Sinohydro is being backed by Sahco, the family-owned company of former communication minister Syed Abul Hossain, who had given the firm the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway job. Hossain, who lost his job due to the World Bank's allegation of corruption conspiracy in the Padma Bridge tender, is now allegedly exerting his influence to bag the river training job.
On June 30 and July 1, Hyundai and Jan De Nul informed the authorities that Sinohydro was under early temporary suspension of the World Bank and was not eligible to continue with the bidding process.
The two bidders quoted the tender document that states, “A firm or an individual may be declared ineligible to be awarded a Bank-financed contract upon completion of the Bank's sanctions proceedings as per its sanctions procedures, including inter alia: (i) temporary suspension in connection with an ongoing sanction proceedings.”
They noted that the temporary suspension process is confidential. “However, this can be verified and validated by the Government of Bangladesh by officially writing to Ms Elizabeth Lin Forder, Secretary to the Sanctions Board of the World Bank…,” wrote Hyundai that also gave several other tips to the government to crosscheck its allegation.
River training is the second costly component of the $3 billion Padma Bridge project. This component deals with stopping river erosion, maintaining navigability and dredging more than 11 km area near Jajira and 3 km area in Maowa.
The contractor will need to use nearly 22 million geo-textile bags and filters, one million tonnes of concrete aggregates, 0.25 million tonnes cement and 0.8 million tonne sand as part of the training works. Besides, this job needs excavators, bulldozers, concrete pumps, dump trucks, mobile and crawler cranes, wheel loaders, etc.
Despite the complexity of the work that demands the right price, not just the lowest one, the government might fall for the lowest offer, the official said.
Liao Libing, deputy representative of Sinohydro in Bangladesh, said his company had no problem with bidding for the river training since it was not blacklisted by the World Bank.
He said Hyundai and Jan De Nul had complained against his company only after knowing that none of them would get the job. “They are desperate to brand us as a blacklisted firm,” he told The Daily Star over phone.
Liao refuted the allegation that Sahco, a company owned by former communications minister Syed Abul Hossain, is lobbying for Sinohydro so that it got the river training job.
“I don't have any contact with the company,” he claimed.
Project Director of Padma Bridge Shafiqul Islam said, “There is an evaluation committee that is looking into everything. Evaluation into the financial offers of the bidders is going on.”
Shafiqul, who is also a member of the evaluation committee, said the usual practice was that the evaluation committee would take any complaint into consideration with a view to resolving it.