February 21, 2024


After repeated criticism of project planning in several infrastructure projects, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways on Friday revised the framework of evaluating bids for project plans prepared by consultants for National Highway projects.


Under the new framework, deficiencies in the work done by consultants will feature prominently in the bid evaluation process by the ministry’s agencies such as the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

 


The Centre will give an 80 per cent weighting to the value of technical proposals sent by bidding project consultants as against the previous 70 per cent.


While the weighting in itself has not been drastically changed, the components of evaluating technical proposals have been overhauled to end malpractices.

 


Project planners now must show at least five detailed project reports (DPRs) done earlier to be prioritised in the “previous experience” section, instead of the present three. The weighting given to previous experience has been increased.


In earlier projects, the Centre would often experience delays in land acquisition due to lack of due diligence in making project plans, and contractors would also find highway alignments to be different from those designated in the DPR.


Bidders will have to disclose deficiencies in their past performance, such as the average area variation in execution as against the original plans, the average delay in land acquisition in the last five DPRs by the planner, and the average change of scope in planned work. Moreover, the government is hoping to curb the practice of extraordinarily low bids by eliminating the weighting given to the lowest bid in consultancy assignments.


Officials said consultants would often quote unrealistic prices to get the contract, which would at times lead to poor DPRs.


Under the new framework, all bid prices that are 25 per cent or more below the average bid price will be given a score of 100 points, and these will be used as the benchmark for evaluating the points given to all other bidders. 


The earlier system allowed only the lowest bidder to be given 100 points.


A Mumbai-based senior analyst said the move was in the right direction, but it might lead to the unintended consequence of cartelisation by project consultants. A few parties may get together to agree on a price band that would fall in the 25 per cent space, now that multiple parties can be given 100 per cent points, the person said.


“A central database of quality of past performance or DPR consultants has to be prepared by NHIDCL (National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd) in infracon with inputs from all executing agencies of MoRTH (the ministry),” the ministry said in a circular, adding that this exercise would be completed by April 2024 and till then the evaluation of past performance would be done on the basis of self-certification.


Moreover, the ministry will limit the scale of the project to be given to consultants based on the manpower declared by them, with more elaborate penalties for false declarations of the number and qualifications of personnel.


Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari had criticised DPR consultants, claiming that the quality of project plans was so bad that he felt they used internet searches to prepare them instead of doing technical due diligence.

First Published: Feb 09 2024 | 11:59 PM IST