10 Feb 2019 06:10am IST

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10 Feb 2019 06:10am IST

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Since 2012, when the BJP first came to power, one issue that has haunted successive governments has been the Beach Cleaning Scam. In 2016 Herald had exposed the Beach Cleaning tendering scam by then Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar. While that was a scam, come 2019, here is what seems to be the mother of all scams – the BEACH CLEANING SCAM 2.  SURAJ NANDREKAR investigates to find how the government has violated norms to grant the contract to DRISHTI without tendering.

For over two years the Tourism department under Minister Manohar alias Babu Azgaonkar has awarded the beach cleaning contract to M/s Drishti without any tendering. Shocking isn’t it?

At the fag end of 2016, the then two contractor’s M/s Bhumika Cleantech and M/s Ram Cleaners, who were given the contract for North and South respectively, stopped collecting garbage due to non-disbursements of payments.

As an emergency situation since the New Year was also fast approaching the government decided to hand over the work to M/s Drishti, who were already providing lifeguard services on the beach.

Drishti were verbally informed about the work, which they agreed on 17/12/2016. However, Drishti were given a formal letter only six months later on 14/05/2017.

The letter read, “In response to the emergent situation that has arisen due to the sudden stoppage of beach cleaning work undertaken by previous contractors engaged by the department of tourism, the government had resorted to assign the work of cleaning the beach stretches in the State of Goa by way of outsourcing by choice under GFR 184 and accordingly your willingness was obtained to take up the work w.e.f 17/12/2017.”

“Department has approved to award the work at an estimate cost of Rs 2,62,87,051 for the period of 105 days with effect from 17/12/2015 to 31/03/2017 and has further approved to extend the period of the above work for another 106 days w.e.f 01/04/2017 to 15/07/2017 on the same terms and conditions,” it said. 

Since then the Tourism department has given seven extensions without any proper tendering. Form December 2016 to Nov 2018, government has paid Drishti Rs 18.18 cr. This is in gross violation of Central Vigilance Commission rules which states "Award of contracts on nomination basis, which is also called a single tender is to be resorted to only under exceptional circumstances such as natural calamities and emergencies or there were no bids to repeated tenders or where only one supplier has been licensed ( proprietary item ) in respect of goods sought to be procured."

During this period till the agreement ended on November 12, 2018 the agency collected 2779409 kgs of garbage from along the State’s coast.

Drishti decided to discontinue beach cleaning services after failing to get an official communiqué from the government to continue the services. 

The Department of Tourism with the assistance of the Project Cell of Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) then decided to work on interim measures for beach cleaning till the contract is awarded to a new bidder. Around 200 workers were then pressed into service but only along the main beach belt. The government then soon extended the agreement with Drishti Lifesaving Services till the end of ongoing financial year. 

 Opposition’s ire

In the just concluded assembly, the Congress members, including Philip Neri Rodrigues,Digambar Kamat and Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco, claimed that Ajgaonkar allowed a private firm Drishti Lifesaving Services Private Limited to continue the beach cleaning task for two years without issuing a tender for the work.

“This is against the rules. Why did the government not tender the beach cleaning contract for two years? This smacks of corruption,” said former chief minister Digamabar Kamat.


New tender also a scam?

In November 2018, the government has floated a tender worth Rs 55 cr and Opposition as well as the ruling MLAs are shocked on the whopping amount.

Dy Speaker and Calangute MLA Michael Lobo says “It comes as a surprise that there is only a single bidder for the new tender that has been floated for around Rs 55 cr. which is five time more than the 

state is presently paying for the same service,” he said.

Further, Lobo, who is also the Director of SWMC says, department has independently engaged a consultant at very high fees to evaluate the scope of work, budget and methodology to prepare the beach cleaning tender,” he said.

“I have spoken to the tourism minister and asked him to reconsider his decision and hand over the process of tendering to SWMC,” he said adding this is an example of administration coming to a standstill.

Congress MLA Alexio Reginald Lourenco also questioned the tender amount.

“It was earlier Rs 7 lakh and has now increased to Rs 55 crore. Why such a huge hike when instead of an agency, our Goans can be recruited for cleaning the beaches,” Lourenco said. 

Huge difference in tender amount

While everyone can understand the cost of living and the labour has increased over the past few years but the tourism department seems to be on a different planet altogether.

Investigations by Herald reveal that tender floated for beach cleaning is not at all realistic. In 2013-14, the expenses for the North Goa Beaches was Rs 85,26,564 (Rs 85.26 lakhs). For FY 2014-15, it shot up to Rs 7,58, 99,999 (Rs 7.59 crores). The expenses incurred for South Goa for 2013-14 was Rs 1,00,60,452 while the present is Rs 7,11,99,999.

 The total expenditure (for north as well as south) as per old contracts in FY 2013-14 was Rs 1,85,87,016. This suddenly increased by eight times to Rs 14,70,99,999 when Dilip Parulekar’s department floated the tender in 2014-15.

Govt committed to keep beaches clean: Tourism Min

 Faced with criticism of allowing Drishti the contract without a tender, Tourism minister Babu Azgaonkar said the department has already initiated the process to appoint new agency to clean the beaches, which will be completed soon.

“It’s a commitment of the State government that we keep our beaches clean. The fresh tender for the beach cleaning work has been issued on October 20, 2018 and technical bids were opened on December 5, 2018,” he said.

The minister replied that the process of tendering has been taken up as per the guidelines of Central Vigilance Commission, making it transparent.

He added that Drishti was assigned the work of beach cleaning on December 17, 2016 as a “stop gap arrangement” continued the work till last year when they decided to opt out asking for a hike in the fees paid to them.

“The firm demanded an increase in the amount or else they would stop the work, despite their contract period till March 2019. It was then that Tourism department intervened and deployed our people to carry out beach cleaning. But since they could not cope up with it, Drishti was given the work again and requested to continue till March 2019,” he said. 

Azgaonkar however went on to add that they are capable to handle beach cleaning. “The government has 100 percent guts to keep the beaches clean. You just point finger at the dirt on the beach and we will get it cleaned,” he said. 

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