ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Untangling the Airport Mess

ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY Untangling the Airport Mess The tendering process for the modernisation of Mumbai and Delhi airports has gone into a virtual tailspin ever since the technical advisor disqualified four of the six bidders in the evaluation. Two bidders for two airports amounted, in effect, to a preselection of bid contracts and carried the possibility of rendering redundant the element of competition in financial bidding. Whether the criterion of 80 per cent marks for technical qualification was too stringent or whether one qualifying bidder, Reliance ASA, was marked too liberally on qualitative parameters are questions that can only be answered by access to information not available in the public domain. However, going by the downgrading of Reliance in the reassessment by the E Sreedharanled panel of experts, which disqualified the consortium, it appears that the earlier suspicion of the group being liberally graded on qualitative variables might have been well-founded. Besides this, allegations about the financial and legal consultants of the government having business links with some of the bidders also led to some high-voltage walkouts in Parliament. Though a high-level government review committee in November, which conducted an appraisal to check if the evaluation was done in a fair manner, declared the process above board, its report brought to light the fact that the consultants did not independently verify the information provided by the bidders, but relied on the representations made by them. In the events that have unfolded since, the Sreedharan panel has at least been decisive in its evaluation and voiced some clear, if somewhat unpopular, views, while both the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) authorised to select the bidders and the inter-ministerial group (IMG) meant to assist it, have remained divided or have simply passed the buck. The EGoM is now scheduled to meet on January 24 and has asked the Sreedharan panel to rate all the six bidders again, though the panel is in favour of a

WEEKLYECONOMIC AND POLITICAL

T he tendering process for the modernisation of insistence by various government agencies that the Mumbai and Delhi airports has gone into a virtual present process, marred though it has become, should tailspin ever since the technical advisor dis-not be disrupted. When something as large as the qualified four of the six bidders in the evaluation. Two modernisation of two major airports is set to take off, bidders for two airports amounted, in effect, to a pre-it is not surprising that the government would want to selection of bid contracts and carried the possibility of salvage what would be an important showpiece of its rendering redundant the element of competition in finan-time in office. But when this translates into pushing cial bidding. Whether the criterion of 80 per cent marks through an unsatisfactory tendering process or interfor technical qualification was too stringent or whether fering with the independence of the bodies assigned one qualifying bidder, Reliance ASA, was marked too the task of arriving at a contract, the hazards are liberally on qualitative parameters are questions that can certainly in evidence. only be answered by access to information not available in It is pertinent to note in this regard the prime ministers the public domain. However, going by the downgrading clear enunciation to the EGoM about not derailing of Reliance in the reassessment by the E Sreedharan-the current process. What line the Planning Commisled panel of experts, which disqualified the consortium, sion, whose dissent note about the grading of technical it appears that the earlier suspicion of the group being bids in the IMG first sparked off the controversy, will liberally graded on qualitative variables might have been now take, remains to be seen. The finance ministry is well-founded. Besides this, allegations about the finan-known to be averse to any suggestion other than percial and legal consultants of the government having sisting with the existing bids and the civil aviation and business links with some of the bidders also led to some law ministries (whose ministers are all in the EGoM) high-voltage walkouts in Parliament. Though a high-level have in the past concurred. The finance ministry had government review committee in November, which earlier suggested that the IMG endorse the evaluation conducted an appraisal to check if the evaluation was done committees original view on balance of convenience in a fair manner, declared the process above board, its as other options such as re-bidding or scrapping the report brought to light the fact that the consultants did tender were ostensiblyinconvenient. Haste or convenience, not independently verify the information provided by the as the case may be, would certainly be the wrong reasons bidders, but relied on the representations made by them. for pressing ahead.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Or

To gain instant access to this article (download).


Pay
INR 59

(Readers in India)


Pay
$ 6

(Readers outside India)

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.