J&K : Gross irregularities in installation of Oxygen Generation Plants

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Gross irregularities have come to surface in the procurement, installation and commissioning of Oxygen Generation Plants (OGPs) costing crores of rupees in Jammu province for which the tenders were invited by the Mechanical Engineering Department in view of Covid-19 pandemic emergency.

Official sources told the Excelsior that the tender specifications were allegedly customized and configured to allow particular bidder to be eligible for these bids and to create a cartel to exclude others.

Further, sources added, the quality of the products was compromised, which also got reflected from the poor workmanship and average performance of the OGPs installed in Jammu province.

Out of total targeted installation of 25 OGPs by the firm allotted the contract, only 13 Plants were installed even after lapse of the deadline for installation and commissioning of these Plants.

More astonishing is the fact that OGPs being installed by the same department in the UT had varied specifications of the main item when compared for both provinces. Whereas Kashmir division opted for specific, fail safe, fool proof and dependent technology, which the Engineers were well versed with, documents in the possession of Excelsior establish that the Jammu division removed all technical specifications and made a ‘free for all make’ tenders.

Sources in the Civil Secretariat said that the Divisional administration has also taken cognizance of these irregularities on the basis of documentary evidences and strongly recommended to the Principal Secretary, Public Works (R&B) Department to immediately initiate Departmental Enquiry in this regard.

Observing that mess of a situation was created by Mechanical Engineering Department, Jammu province regarding the vital works related to installation and commissioning of OGPs in Health Institutions during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Raghav Langer has recommended that the concerned officials should be charge-sheeted in light of the documentary evidences on record.

Pertinent to mention that in view of the Covid-19 pandemic emergency, tenders were invited by the Mechanical Engineering Department, J&K for the supply, installation, testing and commissioning of Medical Oxygen Generator Plants at various Health facilities across the Union Territory.

A total of four NITs were invited by the Chief Engineer, Mechanical Engineering Department Jammu for the Design, Manufacturing/Supply, Installation, Testing and Commissioning along with warranty and operation for three years on Onsite Medical Oxygen Generator Sets at 17 locations in Jammu having 48 numbers of Plants costing approximately Rs 100.78 crores.

Similarly, a total of 19 numbers of e-NITs were invited by the Executive Engineer MH & CH Division Srinagar for the Oxygen Plants with operation/maintenance for 19 locations having 37 plants.

However, sources said that some alarming discrepancies have been found on the perusal of the bidding documents. Technical specifications of the Oxygen Plants and other allied equipments for MED Jammu and MED Kashmir, which were bidded, had huge variations.
While elaborating, sources said that the Oxygen Plants in Kashmir Province, as per NITs, were of PSA Technology whereas the Oxygen Plants in Jammu Province were of either PSA or VSA Technology.

The product specification were subsequently further altered in all 4 NITs of Jammu province wherein the Air System, initially provisioned for as “Compressor/Reversible Blower” was modified as “Compressor/Reversible Blower/Twin Blower” to benefit the particular consortium firm, i.e. M/s Unissi (India) Pvt Ltd, which got the allotment for 12 locations with 30 Plants.

Further, sources added, M/s Unissi (India) Pvt Ltd, which got the contract for 30 Plants, had Oxywise (Slovakia-imported) make (as per the Module/Main Oxygen Generator) for eight Plants only and for the remaining 22 number of Plants, the Module/Main Oxygen Generator was of Airox-Medox (Ahmedabad-indigenous) make.

Thus, sources said, this allotment of 22 number of Plants of `Airox Medox’ make did not conform to the `recommended/acceptable makes’ as enlisted in the initial Technical Specification of the Standard Bidding Document.

Interestingly, this new type of indigenous make `Airox-Medox’ got qualified following a new relaxation incorporated vide a corrigendum in the e-NIT, sources said.

The technical specifications for such highly specialized equipments were kept generic, arbitrary and loose to allow local manufacturers to be able to participate and eventually get allocation for majority of the Oxygen Generation Plants in Jammu province, sources explained.

On the other hand, Kashmir province opted for PSA Technology Plants only and got products of the imported makes for all 37 Plants at 19 locations.

Despite all these favours, the firm M/s Unissi (India) Pvt Ltd, having consortium with M/s Airox Nigen Equipment Pvt Ltd (Airox-Medox Indigenous Plants) finally failed to get the works executed at all 12 locations due to differences among the partner firms and according as per the delayed decision taken vide dated 09-03-2021 of the Departmental Contract Committee, headed by the Development Commissioner Works, PW(R&B) Department, the allotment orders were cancelled by the Chief Engineer MED and thereby delaying the installation of Plants in Jammu Province. The consortium of M/s Unissi(India) Pvt Ltd and M/s Airox Nigen Equipment Pvt Ltd was also debarred from participation in future tenders of the department for an initial period of two years.

After termination of the contracts with M/s Unissi (India) Pvt Ltd for 12 locations of Jammu province, fresh bids were invited by the Chief Engineer MED Jammu. Surprisingly, the Departmental Contract Committee revoked its order of blacklisting the firm M/s Unissi (India) Pvt Ltd allowing it to participate in bidding process two days before opening of the fresh tenders.

This time, M/s Unissi (India) Pvt Ltd participated as single entity, qualified as L1 (Lowest one) and was awarded works again for the installation of Oxygen Generator Plants at nine locations for 25 Pants.

In the name of Covid emergency and for encouraging participation in fresh tenders, NITs were made more open and all technical specifications were removed thus making a `free for all make’ tender, sources said.

Another major aberration done by the MED Jammu was that no provision was kept in the bidding documents for `Standby Air Compressor unit’ whereas same was kept by the MED Kashmir in the Bidding documents for all Plants at all locations.

The tender documents for Kashmir division were of composite nature with important allied components i.e. Automatic Voltage Regulators (AVRs) and Manifolds- Medical Gas Pipeline System (MGPS)) being integral part of the tendered work. However, the tender documents for Jammu division were split in parts with separate tender floated for Oxygen Plants, AVRs, MGPS by the concerned Executive Engineers of various Divisions of MED Jammu.
Splitting of composite works in parts with regards to the allied equipments was one of the important reasons for delay in the installation of Oxygen Plants in Jammu division and great difficulty was faced by the administration at different locations for timely execution of works through multiple contractors.

Surprisingly, both divisions of UT had variations even in the payment schedule to the firms for the works as per the allotment orders while mode of execution of allotted works also varied in Jammu and Kashmir.

As far as the present progress of installation of Oxygen Generator Plants is concerned in Jammu province, out of 46 Plants, which were meant to be installed, only 34 Plants have been installed so far. M/s Unissi (India) Pvt Ltd was supposed to install 25 Plants but till date has installed only 13 OGPs.

As against this, in Kashmir province, 34 out of 37 Plants have been installed and commissioned by the concessionaires.

Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Raghav Langer is learnt to have recommended that all these facts prima facie point towards malafide intentions and collusion in execution of the said works and accordingly warrant a detailed investigation to bring out the role of concerned.