New Delhi: At least 53 national highway projects, for which initial bids were invited this year, have been delayed despite pre-bid guidelines prescribing that shortlists of bidders be announced within 15 days of the proposals being submitted.
As many as 44 of these 53 projects fall under the third phase of the National Highway Development Programme, or NHDP, and nine under the fifth, a government official said asking not to be named. Phase three of NHDP involves four-laning of some 4,035km of national highways; in the fifth phase, nearly 6,500km of four-laned highways will be converted into six lanes.
While a National Highways Authority of India, or NHAI, official attributed the delay to “voluminous paperwork”, an infrastructure consultant said the projects had become the casualty of a tussle between contractors and government departments.
Going nowhere: At least 53 highway projects have been delayed. Photograph: Ramesh Pathania / Mint
“There is huge paperwork involved in analysing the bids,” the NHAI official said on condition of anonymity. For a project worth Rs500-1,000 crore, companies were submitting documents detailing projects worth as much as Rs1.9 trillion they had completed, to meet qualification criteria and back up experience claims, this official said.
“The shortlisting itself takes time. Many of our consultants are complaining about the workload,” he said.
Mint had on 4 August reported about concerns being raised by at least two bidders over the shortlisting process for a road project in Andhra Pradesh. In April, questions were raised over the shortlisting of candidates for a Rs1,300 crore container terminal at Ennore in Tamil Nadu. A trade body, too, had filed a suit questioning the constitutionality of shortlisting certain bidders, saying it would lead to cartel formation.
Read our 4 August story here
“If they are able to resolve the first issue (shortlisting process), then a lot of them (shortlisted bidders for projects) would come out in a matter of a few weeks... If this doesn’t get clarified within the next three months, then they will use elections as an excuse to delay it by another three months,” said Amrit Pandurangi, who heads PricewaterhouseCoopers’ transport and infrastructure practice.