WB-blessed Chinese co backs out of bidding

Padma Bridge Project
Further discrepancies in bid papers come out during review by experts
A Chinese bidder that the World Bank lobbied for has finally backed off from the $2.9 billion Padma Multipurpose Bridge project, as further discrepancies have been found in its additional bid documents.

The China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) withdrew its bid on Monday after experts reviewed its bid documents twice at the insistence of the World Bank. The Chinese firm also cancelled authorisation to Ventures International Ltd as its local representative for the project in Bangladesh.

A technical evaluation committee and the project’s design consultant in January disqualified the company as a bidder for failing to meet requirements and violating a tender clause.

In a letter to the Bangladesh Bridge Authority on April 13, Masood Ahmed, task team leader of the World Bank, said the discrepancies can be sorted out by asking the Chinese company to submit additional information, documents and photos. He insisted the bidder cannot be rejected merely for adequacies that can be taken care of.

During a follow-up exercise, the authorities asked the Chinese company in April to give proof of its experience in constructing driven-raking steel tube piles — a crucial requirement for Padma bridge’s construction, said design consultant Maunsell Aecom.

The follow-up discussions and additional documents submitted by the CRCC could not satisfy the authorities. It rather added to the tally of inconsistencies.

The capacities of piling hammers the CRCC mentioned in its additional documents seem to be incorrect and insufficient, and some photos the company submitted to relate to its construction of different bridges appear to be taken from the same site, the consultant said.

Discrepancies in pile sizes (diameter and depths) were also found in the documents.

Wishing anonymity, a communications ministry official said the CRCC with its local agent Ventures International Ltd submitted false information and photos to the project authority. Experts found it out while examining the documents.

Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, the head of the technical evaluation committee, told The Daily Star last month that the Chinese firm lacks experience and was disqualified for discrepancies in bid documents and violating a tender clause.

According to the clause, if a mother company and its subsidiary apply or participate in a bid, both will be disqualified. The CRCC is the parent company of China Railway 15 Bureau Group Corporation that also took part in the Padma Bridge bidding and got disqualified for failing to meet the tender criteria.

The World Bank’s slow follow-ups at different stages have already delayed the project by at least nine months.

The first prequalification bidding for the project was completed in July last year and the second one in January this year. The same five firms were qualified in both the cases.

But the government had to cancel the first pre-qualification bidding on WB’s objection for bringing changes to the design. Experts involved in the project urged the WB not to object to the bidding.

The government on January 5 sent the second prequalification report to the WB that is yet to approve it. The bank had repeatedly asked for information on the firms to review their qualifications.

The official said tender documents for the main bridge’s construction are ready but tender cannot be floated without the WB’s approval.

“The delay will inflate the construction cost,” the official added.

The five pre-qualified firms are Samsung C&T Corporation of South Korea, China Major Bridge Engineering Co Ltd, Daelim-Bam-VCI (a joint venture entity of South Korea), Vinci-HCC (a joint venture of France and India) and China Communication Construction Company Ltd.

For the project, the WB is providing $1,200 million, Asian Development Bank $615 million, Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) $400 million and Islamic Development Bank $140 million. The WB has committed another $300 million while the government will provide the rest of the fund.

The 6.15km bridge over the Padma with 3.68km of land-based approach viaducts on both sides of the river will connect the country’s 19 south-western districts with the capital and reduce the travel distance between those and Dhaka by about 100km.

The bridge will have road traffic on the upper and rail on the lower level. The main bridge structure will have a dual carriageway, and also options for future installation of a broad gauge railway track as well as gas, and telecommunication lines and other facilities.

M Abul Kalam Azad – Daily Star

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