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ISLAMABAD: In a major development on Tuesday, the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) has given go ahead to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to complete its procurement proceedings including those of Grievances Redressal Mechanism for grant of contract for providing IT-based solutions for electronic monitoring (track and trace system) for tobacco products, sugar, fertiliser, and cement.

Sources told Business Recorder that the PPRA has amended its earlier letter dated February 22nd by issuing a new letter to FBR chairman on February 23rd.

The PPRA has withdrawn its earlier directions to the FBR i.e. "Meanwhile, the FBR is directed to suspend the procurement proceedings till resolution of the complaint at the authority level".

Following withdrawal of the said directions from the PPRA to the FBR, the process of track and trace system at the FBR has not been stopped or suspended, and it would be completed by the timelines agreed with the government, top officials added.

According to the new letter (dated February 23rd) of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority to the FBR chairman issued here on Tuesday, "In partial modification to this Authority letter dated Feb 22, 2021, the FBR may complete its procurement proceedings including those of Grievances Redressal Mechanism and submit copy of their decisions alongwith required documentation already sought vide the referred letter."

The sources said that the FBR’s Grievances Redressal Committee continued to hear complaints against M/s AJCL (Pvt) Limited, here on Tuesday at the FBR Headquarters.

One of the complainant companies approached the FBR Headquarters on Tuesday and made a presentation before the FBR's Grievances Redressal Committee.

On Tuesday, the process of hearing complaints by the committee was not stopped at the FBR House.

Taking notice of one of the aggrieved bidder’s complaints of February 6, 2021, the PPRA had issued a letter on February 22, 2021 to the FBR with the directions to suspend the procurement proceedings immediately till resolution of the complaint at authority level.

The PPRA stated that the instant matter is under examination of the authority.

The PPRA also has asked the FBR to submit a comprehensive report containing the response to all allegations backed by the documentary evidence and any other supporting documents in seven days.

The PPRA has asked for required information under Sections 5(2)(i) and 16(1) of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002, the PPRA letter dated February 22 added.

According to the opinion of a legal expert, The PPRA only can seek required information under Sections 5(2)(i) and 16(1) of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002 but stopping the procurement process under the referred sections is beyond the mandate of the PPRA.

After the release of the evaluation report on February 2, 2021 by completing the selection process of the successful applicant, under the PPRA Rule 48, the four aggrieved bidders have approached the FBR and the PPRA with their grievances within 15 days allowed by the PPRA Rules 2004.

The process of hearings by the FBR constituted the Grievances Redressal Committee comprising senior officers has already been started.

The aggrieved bidders had the time period of 15 days to approach the Grievances Redressal Committee after the announcement of results by the licensing committee.

Out of total eight bidding companies, the four which approached the committee are: M/s Reliance IT Solutions, M/s NIFT, M/s SICPA, and M/s Steuermarken Solution.

According to experts, the aggrieved bidders have approached the GRC complaining about the extraordinary technical score (97.9 percent) given to the successful company, whereas, the other applicants with world-leading track and trace solution providers remained in the range between 84 percent to77 percent.

The aggrieved bidders have also accused that the selected advantageous applicant has made misrepresentation to the FBR.

The declaration required in the FBR Invitation for the License from all applicants and their partners is to confirm that they have no direct or indirect conflict of interest with the manufacturers/importers/exporters of the goods (tobacco products, cement, sugar and fertiliser).

The aggrieved bidders accused that the company’s website claimed its business interest as importer and exporter of cement, sugar, and fertiliser.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021