Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) has undertaken a project spending an additional Tk 8 billion on the pretext of ‘emergency’, official documents suggest.
For the project to modernise digital telecommunication infrastructure, a Chinese company offered its services for Tk 11.6 billion, but the BTCL decided to accept another Chinese company’s tender for Tk 20.48 billion to implement the project.
The second bidder was awarded the job in violation of procurement rules and directives from the authorities, officials records and authorities concerned confirmed.
The price and requirement of equipments were finalised in December, 2015 without any feasibility study. The cabinet committee on economic affairs approved it in August, 2016 for direct purchase method.
The cabinet committee also recommended that a final approval should come from the cabinet committee on purchase.
However, BTCL signed the contract with ZTE, another company, on 27 September, 2016 defying cabinet committees’ suggestions.
When asked, the state minister for post and telecommunications division Tarana Halim told Prothom Alo, “I’ve questioned this issue of signing any contract without any tender several times, and those who are working for the implementation of this project told me the Chinese embassy issued a letter selecting ZTE as the only company for this project.”
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) executive director Iftekharuzzaman said these actions by BTCL are unacceptable.
"They do not seem to have any intention to stay in the competitive market," he added.
According to a directive from the prime minister's office, a committee must be formed to ensure credibility of fixing price in the government to government method.
But the division did not form any such committee. It formed a committee comprising some officials working at the organisations under BTCL for bargaining with the other parties.
The cabinet committee of economic affairs approved the direct purchase method for this project, but did not mention at which rate the equipment will be brought in.
Another letter from the prime minister's office, issued on 12 May, asked the division to accept the other Chinese company’s offer and bargain further with it. But that instruction has not been followed, the sources concerned said.
BTCL managing director Mahfuz Uddin Ahmed was not available for comment, but public relations director Mir Mohammad Morshed said he declined to talk to journalists on this issue.