One school desk costs Rs29,500 in Sindh

by Tauqeer Abbas
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Shafaqna Pakistan: Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) has approached the Sindh chief minister with the complaint that the provincial education department is allegedly purchasing dual desks for public schools at a 320% higher rate, causing a loss of billions to the public kitty.

A dual desk is a desk attached to its own chair or bench and is often mistakenly referred to as a ‘duel desk’. In its letter, addressed to Syed Murad Ali Shah, the TIP on Monday said that the provincial School Education & Literacy Department (SELD) on June 10, 2021, awarded four contracts for the “supply & delivery of duel [dual] desks in public sector schools of Sindh” worth Rs 5 billion at rates that varied between Rs 23, 985 per desk to Rs. 29,500 per desk, inclusive of all taxes.

Transparency disclosed that the previous tenders for the same procurement of the dual desk furniture were invited by the SELD, Govt. of Sindh, two years ago, precisely on Feb 17, 2019, for a smaller quantity.

“The lowest evaluated tender prices received from responsive bidders for these tenders varied between Rs 5,700 to Rs 6,860 per desk, inclusive of all taxes. However, the School Education & Literacy Department for unknown reasons did not award the contracts.”

The TIP said that keeping in view the difference between the minimum cost of Rs 5,700 and Rs. 23,985 per desk, the current tenders have been awarded at 320% higher prices, which is estimated to have caused a loss of about Rs3.3 billion to the exchequer.

According to the TIP letter, SELD prepared highly inflated engineering estimates of Rs 24,500 per desk, as their market price, though the same desks were offered in open bidding to SELD in 2019 at a maximum price of Rs 6,860 per desk. Keeping in view a 10 percent annual escalation in prices, the TIP conveyed to the CM that the maximum estimated cost should have been Rs 9,000 per desk which included two-and-a-half years’ escalation of 30 percent.

The chief minister was urged to take action against the officers of the department concerned and the contractors for causing a loss worth of billions of rupees to the exchequer. The CM was reminded that the TIP had protested in April 2019 for not awarding the contract by the SELD to the lowest bidder and the chief minister was also informed about it.

Again, on August 23, 2019, the TI Pakistan had informed the Secretary Education & Literacy Department that TI Pakistan will not participate as observer in the evaluation committee in the re-tender due to the non-transparent methods of the department in the tendering process of the previous tender for the same goods.

The TIP requested the chief minister Sindh to examine the allegations, and if they are found correct, take action against the concerned authorities for gross irregularities in the award of contracts.

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