PMO smells rat in BTCL’s costlier file

Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday sent back the bidding file of telecommunication network modernisation project for further assessment.

It was sent for final approval flouting rules as the authorities reportedly favour a Chinese firm to award the work in an additional cost of $31m.

As per official documents, Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Limited (BTCL) has bypassed all rules and recommendations to award the project to the Chinese ZTE Holdings and ZTE Corporation at $231.5m although a BTCL technical evaluation committee report says the cost will in no way exceed $200m.

Besides, the project file was sent to the PMO for final approval of the Modernisation of Telecommunication Network project without carrying out any feasibility study in a gross violation of BTCL Company Act.

The project is aimed at giving a complete overhaul to the country’s TNT network as it has become outdated and no renovation has been made for long.

But the Chinese firm selected for such big and important project related with the country’s telecommunication system has records of failure in at least one BTCL project and also made headlines for showing poor performance overseas.

Taking such records into account, the Economic Relations Division in a letter in November, 2015 advised the authorities to follow “limited tender” procedure allowing firms only from the donor state to participate in the bidding. The project will be funded by the Chinese government.

The letter was sent to the economic and commercial councillor at the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka, secretary of Post and Telecommunication Division and BTCL managing director.

But the BTCL didn’t follow the advice and rather formed a technical evaluation committee to determine the nature of the bid and to evaluate the performance of all the five companies that showed interest in the project.

The committee rated the capacity of the proposed Chinese company as “poor.” However, all its observations were completely ignored in the process.

Later in August last year, a negotiation committee was formed on the directives of the Telecommunication Division Secretary Faizur Rahman Chowdhury, who is also the chairman of BTCL.

The advice of State Minister for Posts and Telecommunication Tarana Halim was also allegedly ignored in this regard.

The report compiled by the negotiation committee stated that the process followed to award the contract to ZTE failed to meet the rules of Public Procurement Act 2008 and Public Procurement Rules, 2006.

Faizur Rahman Chowdhury on Saturday said: “Please call me on Sunday during office.”

But on Sunday the secretary did not pick up his mobile phone though several calls were made.