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Goan contractors seem to be an unhappy lot. According to them, their counterparts from outside the state are a preferred choice when it comes to awarding government construction projects. They point out that provisions in the CPWD manual needs to be amended so that it favours local contractors, writes MICHAEL FISHER

Not a level playing field

Goan contractors seem to be an unhappy lot. According to them, their counterparts from outside the state are a preferred choice when it comes to awarding government construction projects. They point out that provisions in the CPWD manual needs to be amended so that it favours local contractors, writes MICHAEL FISHERIt appears that contractors from other states have formed a consortium to win the bulk of local tenders with the intention of diminishing local competition. The Goa government needs to empower local contractors through legislation or by amending the CPWD manual for contractors that is strictly followed by PWD and GSIDC.

These guidelines in the CPWD manual, also known as the `Contractor’s Bible’, favours contractors from other states rather than their Goan counterparts. Medium and large-scale contracts are awarded to them as they are eligible. The provisions in the guidelines needs to be amended and relaxed for local contractors for procuring contracts, thus enhancing their capacity, point out contractors from Goa. This is a matter of grave concern which needs urgent redressal if the state has to ensure that earnings stay within the state’s economy.

They are demanding that all contracts and tenders should be mandatory awarded to local contractors and be given preference for selecting for sub-contracts and tie-ups in case of mega projects. By this method, all local contractors are assured of some work, and employment is given a boost.

Representing the local contractors’ community, Mario D’Cunha, a Panaji-based contractor, alleges that the slice of Goa’s projects is being bartered away for a huge kickback against the very ideals and identity of Goans. This has been going on for years, but in the past couple of years, it has gone out of proportions and beyond control. With tender-fixing being the name of the game, the cost of the contract gets deflated and then the tender is awarded to the incentive one. This is the modus operandi, he alleges further.

He further explains that when contracts are not given to Goans and instead awarded to outsiders, government departments victimise local contractors, and when it comes to employment usage of existing resources and manpower, the outside contractor who gets the tender takes the cream of the Goan economy, meaning he employs workers, machineries and materials from his state and even sends his earnings out of Goa.

In the last fiscal year, it was estimated that over Rs 1,000 crore earnings of constructing road and bridges have left Goan shores through a south Indian bank operating here, the favourite bank of Kerala contractors.

It is a false propaganda that Goans don’t work when the authority thinks they have the power to give our work to outsiders, says a Sanquelim-based contractor. He claims that the administration and politicians prefer to work with contractors of other states for reasons best known to them. About ninety per cent of road works are contracted to contractors of Kannore district in Kerala, and among themselves they have formed a cartel organization, he claims further.

According to him, the CPWD manual needs to be amended. There are certain prequalification conditions and guidelines in the manual where all contractors have to abide, and by these guidelines the government is encouraging outside contractors, especially from Kerala to get projects in Goa.

The CPWD guidelines declare that contractors should have a strong financial track record and technical background. Contractors with experience of Rs 10 crore projects and above can qualify for tendering. How many such projects have come up since Goa’s liberation, they wonder. Not even a handful. “So how on earth are we to get this experience? The government should relax these guidelines to suit Goan contractors immediately,” argues a Ponda-based contractor.

Local contractors are largely being shut out from all projects because their counterparts know the art of being incentivised in getting tenders and pre-qualifications. “When we don’t see high value local contractors on a project, we know our chances of getting any work as a sub contractor is less than five per cent,” reveals a small local contractor.

“We’re pointed to the tender procurement procedure by the authorities every time we attempt to bid for a tender,” he divulges. “The procurement policy needs to be updated. I think we have to look at the policy and make sure it’s fair and equitable for everybody so that small and medium contractors will have the same opportunities and won’t be constantly pushed aside,” he adds.

For the exception of a few Goan contractors, the majority of outside contractors are listed with GSIDC, especially from Kerala, Andhra, Gujarat, and Karnataka. It would be justified if GSIDC lists all Goan contractors and conducts training and keeps them informed about the latest development taking place, suggests another contractor.

Budding graduates in civil engineering with high hopes are let down and forced to leave the state to find their career elsewhere. They lack proper guidance and need training in starting their ventures as class IV PWD engineers. After their training period, they will be eligible as sub contractors. If Goans don’t know the ways of incentives sharing, is not their fault, points out the contractor.

The guidelines states that contractors with experience of projects valued at Rs 10 crore can tender. In this case how many such projects have come up since Goa’s liberation, they ask. By lowering the criteria mentioned in the manual, the government should be aware how they are losing revenue by awarding contracts to outside contractors.

Material cost in Maharashtra and Karnataka is much less compared with Goa. For example, a bag of cement in Goa costs Rs 400, which is Rs 100 more than in other states. They buy in bulk and stock it up in Goa and since they don’t have to pay VAT (valued-added tax) to the government as they are not registered here, hence the government is losing in crores.

The government should investigate how many outside contractors are ensconced in Goa, and in doing so VAT should be recovered from them. Authorities should investigate and verify the antecedents of their qualifications and certificates which is never done, complain local contractors. There are around 470 outside contractors who are scooping up a major portion at the cost of local contractors.

A contractor from Margao mentions that no contractors are allowed more than four projects according to a government notification, but this criteria is breached by PWD by awarding one firm who is presumably the main contractor for GSIDC’s infrastructure works. Presently, this contractor has more than 10 GSIDC projects at hand value in hundreds of crores of rupees with the minimum worth Rs 250 crore.

According to government sources, a breakdown of projects awarded to outside contractors are as follows:

From PWD – Kerala gets 60 per cent

From GSIDC – 80 per cent goes to outsiders

From WRD – 50 per cent goes to outsiders

Like the ‘Made in India’ campaign to boost Indian Economy, why not promote ‘Make in Goa’ to boost our economy, questions D’Cunha. By awarding all government works and projects to Goan contractors, the government will in turn boost our economy.

MINING

What is the mine owners’ social responsibility to the local contractor? Transportation contracts should be awarded to local contractors on a priority basis, especially to the affected, local people. The government should start empanelling and enlisting contractors with expertise in the field. The government should work out the rates for rental, transport and others.

In the mining sector, 90 per cent of the earthmoving machine contracts go to contractors from Kolhapur and elsewhere. They would somehow win the contracts leaving our local contractors in the lurch or with petty jobs. Even getting sub contracts to these contractors is a rarity.

Although, there are huge opportunities for Goans who’ve the expertise in spite of owning their own equipment and machineries, but they are kept waiting. The government should set rules and make it a priority for local transport contractors to be awarded.

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