In a controversial move, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has awarded a multi-million dollar license for the implementation of an IT-based solution for electronic monitoring and track and trace system for tobacco products to National Radio & Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC).
According to a local english newspaper, Chairman FBR Shabbar Zaidi said that the contract had been awarded to the lowest bidder M/S NRTC. He further stated that “We stuck to the PPRA rules for awarding this contract.”
However, according to the details, other top officials claim that the FBR sought the viewpoint of the ministry of law on a “typo mistake” committed in the bidding document and allowed them to rectify it. The question arises whether the FBR sought any comments from PPRA or not before awarding the contract.
In this connection, the FBR issued a letter to the corporation. According to FBR’s letter, the Licensing Committee, constituted under Licensing Rules 2019 notified vide SRO.250(I)/2019 dated February 26, 2019 as amended vide SRO.918(I)/2019 dated August 7, 2019, submitted its recommendations vide letter No UO 1(I) Chief (IR-OPS) (T&T)/2019, dated October 2019.
The recommendations of the Licensing Committee were considered in the Board-in-Council meeting dated October 14, 2019 in which the Board unanimously decided that the Member (IR-Operations), FBR, may take further steps in light of the recommendations made by the Licensing Committee, in light of the Licensing Rules 2019, said the FBR.
The perusal of the minutes of the meeting dated October 14, 2019 issued by the Licensing Committee revealed that the M/s NRTC had offered a price of Rs 0.731 with a unit of 1000 stamps. However, M/s NRTC claimed that this price was declared by mistake, therefore, they filed the representation in Dispute Resolution/Grievance Redressal Committee for correction of unit price as Rs 731 per 1,000 stamps which was accepted by the Dispute Resolution/Grievance Redressal Committee vide order dated October 28, 2019.
Sources were of the view that under advice from the Law and Justice Division, the Grievance Redressal Committee accepted that NRTC committed a mistake and accepted their price as Rs 731 per 1,000 stamps. This move on the pretext of a bona fide clerical error, is in violation of procurement laws as the bidders must hold bidding instructions as sacrosanct and the intention behind bona fide or mala fide error cannot be determined arbitrarily by the Law and Justice Division on the mere acceptance of the bidder that it was inadvertent.
FBR has granted the license to the said corporation at a price of Rs. 731 per 1,000 stamps for a period of five years to establish, maintain and operate the whole process of the Track and Trace System for tobacco products in Pakistan.