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ISLAMABAD: The Grievance Redressal Committee (GRC) of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has categorically said that the successful bidder of the track and trace project does not fall within the mischief of the term ‘conflict of interest’.

The FBR GRC has issued an order to complete the proceeding on complaint filed by M/s Reliance IT Solutions (Pvt) Ltd.

The GRC perused the submissions of the petitioner.

The GRC has also sought the views/explanation of the licensing committee, Project Director (Track &-T), IT Wing, FBR, on the issues raised by the petitioner.

After examination of record and perusal of arguments, the GRC’s findings are recorded.

According to the GRC order, on the question of conflict of interest with the industry goods alleged against the successful bidder which according to the counsel of the petitioner suffers from serious and material conflict of interest, expressly forbidden under the IFL (Information for license).

Generalised and marketing statements on the website about various products and commodities such as cement, ethanol, fertiliser, and sugar does not ipso facto establishes the breach under the term conflict of interest, unless same is substantiated with material evidence.

The GRC has endeavored to search for the term "conflict of interest" in procurement contracts.

The term “conflict of interest” has nowhere been expressly defined in the local legal framework available for procurement process.

Based on the above criteria, the successful bidder does not fall within the mischief of the term conflict of interest.

However, as a matter of abundant precaution, since nothing was put before this forum that showed engagement of the successful bidder in upstream consultancy or having a close business or family relationship with a professional staff of the project implementing/processing agency.

Grievance highlighted above revolves around non-disclosure of comparative and detailed breakdown of marks awarded to all the bidders for each category of evaluation under Annexure-5 of instructions for licensing (IFL).

The committee responded that on technical evaluation as enshrined in Annexure-5 of the IFL (Instructions for license) the LC committee provided a complete break up of marks assigned under each category of technical evaluation.

However, for the sake of transparency and fairness, which in our opinion addresses the concerns of the petitioner as well as other competitors, the committee make the detailed break up of technical evaluation as per Annexure-5 of IFL as part of this order as Annexure-1.

Needless to mention here that the GRC is not a competent forum to technically evaluate/award marks to the bidders, the GRC said.

The GRC after perusal of record of hiring of consultant is of the view that objection regarding the hiring of consultant should have been raised prior to the opening of bids.

Moreover, the petitioner's suspicions regarding the participation of consultant in evaluation process and further doubt of the petitioner that the consultant's hiring from South Africa and the winning bidder have connection to the country of origin of consultant is not substantiated by any evidence.

It is also not substantiated by any evidence that South African consultant is affiliated to M/s AJCL, which secured the highest score, nor any evidence was placed before the GRC, that foreigner consultant has any relationship with the M/s AJCL, which was declared as most advantageous applicant.

In view of above objection raised regarding the South African consultant is based on apprehension of the petitioner, which cannot be relied upon, it said.

The GRC, after examining the record, found that 30 marks were allocated for quality feature of tax stamps out of 160 marks.

It was noticed that petitioner has secured 29.49 marks out of 30 marks.

Whereas, the successful bidder has secured 29.98 marks.

Hence, there is a difference of 0.49 marks between the successful bidder and petitioner in this category of evaluation.

The difference of 0.49 marks has no material significance.

Hence, grievance on this ground is not well founded.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021