Wednesday 26 February 2020

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Infrastructure | InfoTech

Tabs to students is a 30 Cr scam: Kelekar & Kunkolienkar

 

Samir Kelekar & Prashanti Kunkolienkar

Samir Kelekar, a renowned Bangalore-based Goan IT professional, along with Prashant Kunkolienkar, CEO of Computronics Infotech, recently alleged that the Tablets distributed to Goan students of Std V and VI is a fraud of around Rs 30 crore.

In a press conference held in the city, both of them demanded that the tender be cancelled and a CBI inquiry be instituted to inquire into doctoring of the tender, operations of the cartel and how only selected companies win the tender all the time.

Following is the full text of the Tablet scam Kelekar has exposed:

As Governments become smart, scams become complex

In 2006, we had a scam in the Rajiv Gandhi IT Park where plots were bought cheaper from Communidade and sold to companies at higher rates, and some of the companies to whom they were sold did not even exist.

In 2013, we have a scam where Infotech Corporation has directly violated its own tender clauses in a contract for e-tablets worth Rs. 50 crore. Further, 5 companies have been favoured via various illegal means and a major chunk of the project --- 78.5% --- is given to them. There are a total of 13 companies who are given the project, most of them a very small part just for namesake.

A powerful cartel of five IT dealers in Goa

Apex computers, Technoworld, Delta, Syscon and J.P. Computers have formed a cartel and have been grabbing most Infotech corporation projects given by not just this government but even the last government. In 2008-2009, the bids given by these companies differed by just one rupee each.

How is it possible unless they have exchanged information with one another?

In this tender of 2013, bids given by these companies differ by a couple of hundred rupees in a well-laid out sequence. Interestingly, Apex computers is always the lowest bidder. This company is owned by one Mr. Nilesh Amonkar.

In a tender of the first cyberage scheme way back in early 2000s, the BJP govt made the criteria for eligibility as a requirement for a NASSCOM membership, something that is nowhere connected with one's ability to supply computers. Apex Computers alone qualified due to this. They got an order of 700 computers. The next year, a single order of at least 500 computers was made a requirement. Apex alone qualified again as they had supplied 700 computers the previous year.

If the government had bought tablets from manufacturers, about 15 crore would have been saved. Parrikar himself admits the price difference.

Given that this project is to continue to give tablets to students of Classes 7, 8, 9, 10 (currently tablets are given for students of Classes 5 and 6) the total loss for exchequer would go to higher than

20 crore perhaps even 30 crore and more.

How did a Netbook tender suddenly morph into a tablet project?

The contract was deliberately first floated as a netbook project, and later turned into a tablet project. In doing so, CVC guidelines were violated (vendors ought to be given at least 3 weeks for bidding, while in this case only a week was given for bidding after the change, which is a major one).

Secondly, most major tablet vendors could not compete in this tender as for one, manufacturers couldn’t bid themselves and required a local partner to bid, the local partner criteria was tuned in such a way that PC suppliers (which form the cartel) alone would be eligible, and these had already tied up with some brands who were favoured. The criteria for a tablet manufacturer to be eligible was made much tougher than a PC manufacturer to be eligible.

Tablet market is highly competitive, and is emerging, and there is no point in making past requirements of PC supply for a tablet tender. On the other hand, the criteria were made such that a PC manufacturer who may not have enough expertise in the tablet market could easily compete. The criteria for a PC manufacturer to compete are more lax compared to the tablet manufacturer even though this tender is for tablets and not for netbooks or PCs or laptops. Indian brands such as

Micromax, Karbonn and even international brands such as Samsung could not compete.

We allege that these criteria were doctored to favour the cartel of companies mentioned above and

get rid of the other vendors. In the original netbook contract floated which was later changed to tablets, CVC guidelines were again violated by only requiring vendors to supply international brands.

A bit about the structure of the tender:

A so-called open category was introduced which was to get the bulk (65%) of the contract. The open category should be ordinarily such that any vendor anywhere in the country should be able to compete, but a requirement to have an office in Goa for three years made the open category non-open for all practical purposes. The other category is a category for Goan companies which gets 35% of the contract. In practice, the open category thus became a creamy-layer-Goan category.

Once the so called open category was restricted to the cartel, only their prices were considered for determining the minimum price. The Goan category lowest prices were not even opened. This again is wrong as the government ought to get the best possible price irrespective of the category.

 

The minimum price that the government has gone for is much higher than even the Flipkart retail price, which is laughable as bulk orders get substantial discount.

In order to restrict the open category to only the favoured companies, a new criteria of having supplied 4% of the 47000 laptops, the order of the contract to the government in one order (where is the connection with tablets?) was come up with, to be eligible for the open category. This eliminated one company by being a mere 26 short of the 4% count. Where did Infotech come up with the 4% number from?

Here is a clue. If they had made the number 5% for instance, two of the favoured companies would have also got eliminated.

Tenders need to be published in national trade journals as per GFR rules. These guidelines were violated.

Two companies which had to be made ineligible as per their own contract clause as they were blacklisted by a government body (the tender requirement states that if a notification of blacklisting is issued by a govt/semi-govt/quasi-govt body or a govt corporation, then the manufacturer/bidder is ineligible) were not made ineligible and in fact one of the two companies was given the contract. This is a blatant illegality that couldn’t be more open-and-shut.

The modus operandi used by Goa government:

Create two categories: so called open category and a Goan category. Keep the bulk of the contract --- in this case it is 65% --- for the so called open category.

Doctor the requirements criteria so that open category is not really 'open' and again a Goan presence is required to be eligible for it thus eliminating competitive national companies.

Keep further criteria to ensure only favoured companies are in it. Then, for determining the lowest price, called L1, consider only companies in the so called open category. Companies in the open

category work together as a cartel so that they can themselves determine what the minimum is; in other words, doctor it to their liking.

Local manufacturer was not able to bid It is to be noted that there is a company which manufactures tablets in Goa and supplies to BSNL. It is called Teracom. They create jobs in Goa, pay excise and other taxes. They couldn’t even bid for this project. CVC/GFR guidelines state that domestic brands should be considered.

Buying from manufacturers --- it is well known --- gives one the best price as well as the best service.

Manohar Parrikar mentions that a policy decision was taken in 2002 not to buy from manufacturers directly but through local suppliers to encourage local businessmen. However this looks like just an excuse, as in 2008, Wipro a manufacturer of desktops bid as a manufacturer and won the contract against the same cartel by supplying minimum price.

Parrikar further mentions that the loss to government due to not buying from a manufacturer is 8 to 10%. This is incorrect as the savings would be at least 40% even if one forces the manufacturer to supply through a local vendor who gets some profit but if one directly negotiates with a manufacturer, the savings would be greater to the public exchequer.

Part of the tender requirements include supply of e-content which is otherwise free:

Government is paying for e-content which is otherwise available free. This is further loss to the exchequer as also only one e-content provider is chosen when as per tender rules, a separate tender should have been floated to choose best e-content from a number of competing vendors. This is another illegality.

There are bigger issues with spending so much money on tablets that will hardly last a year.

Today, thousands of Goan youth, skilled in IT, leave Goa every year due to lack of jobs. Government's first priority should be to create IT jobs in Goa. There are many ways government can do this and each of it would cost less than 10 crore a year. Invite IT companies to Goa, fund entrepreneurship, have a marketing presence in the US which can help Goan companies get business (a big market for IT is in the US and Indians who don't have direct access to the US market are at a big disadvantage).

Secondly, India is lagging behind in electronics hardware. We spend 4 billion dollars every year on electronics import and this is increasing at a faster pace. We need to encourage domestic players who manufacture hardware. Directly buying from MNCs doesn’t help India in any way.

This scam is a not just a big hit on public money, but also a slap in the face of hard-working Goan youth skilled at IT.

We demand that the tender be immediately cancelled, and a central level inquiry by CBI or an independent body be established to inquire into the doctoring of the tender, operations of the cartel, how only the same companies win the tender all the time.

On our part, we shall follow this up to its logical end.





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now we know from where crores of rupees of money for modi meeting is coming from

 
Peter , margao

If similar incident had taken place during Cong I rule, Parrikar would have made a lot of noise in his own style. All the protests he launched then were NEVER in the genuine interest of Goa, but because he wanted POWER.

His ministers keep looting. For example Tawadkar's role in Lusofonia and Ruby is dubious. All BJP MLAs and Ministers are not averse to corruption. I always wondered as how a party like BJP that claims to stand on high moral grounds could allow this? But some of my friends in Khaki shorts informed me that BJP and Sangh coteries that controls all government decisions have devised a novel method. All their elected representatives are ORDERED to keep only 20 PERCENT of the total loot and to give remaining 80 percent to the party funds. This is informally known as ' Dhondu Paddhati' in the inner circles of Goa BJP.

So Congress is a passe. BJP has reinvented the novel institutionalized system of corruption. Kudos to them.

 
Gajendra Tari , Ponda

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