By Rauf Klasra

Benazir Bhutto’s first cousin, Mahfooz Mustafa’s $20m deal with OGDC (reported in The News on November 25), has taken a new turn as now a new $30 million deal is being quietly inked by OGDC bosses without inviting public tenders to install these very compressors purchased from Mahfooz’s Houston-based employer, M/s Valerus. According to the petroleum ministry sources, no tenders have been invited to award this multi-million dollar contract in clear violation of the public procurement rules (PPR).

Sources told The News the installation cost of these compressors, purchased for Qadirpur field, had been beefed up tremendously for obvious considerations and according to sources, there could ultimately be a whopping Rs1-2 billion bounty to be shared amongst the needy and the greedy. Sources maintained if competitive bidding were done, as per the PPR rules, then the touted installation cost would definitely be shaved by a minimum Rs1 billion. But trust the wily bureaucrats to cut a juicy deal from the grey area of ambivalent rules and regulations.

According to available details, an ingenious plan had been devised to award the installation contract first to two public sector companies without any tenders so as to give the impression that the entire transaction was transparent. But, according to the actual plan, these public sector companies would subsequently subcontract most of the work to certain favoured and pre-selected private sector companies and in this manner the cream of the multi-million dollar contract would land in private pockets and without the hassle of any open competitive bidding.

But all this had not started in this manner. An OGDC insider claimed originally plans were in place indeed to invite open tenders. In this regard, a Lahore-based German Consultant Company, ILF, was hired which had also prepared the tender documents. But then in an inexplicable change of strategy, OGDC bosses decided to avoid direct public scrutiny and opted to process the work through friendly and compliant public sector companies. The first episode started with OGDC bringing in the state-owned Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC) but the HMC instead of bidding under its own name, sent a proposal, carrying details of certain private companies, which were supposed to be part of its consortium. HMC was then given three opportunities to revise its bid and come up with a good proposal but it repeatedly failed to impress ILF, which conveyed its serious reservations to the top OGDC management.

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