Cox’s Bazar runway work: Why is CAAB favouring controversial bidder?

A Chinese company is being considered for a massive expansion project in Cox’s Bazar airport, despite evidence of its wrongdoing during the selection process

The Civil Aviation Authority Bangladesh (CAAB) has selected a Chinese contractor for an airport runway expansion job in Cox’s Bazar, despite learning that the company had committed fraud during the tender process.

CAAB selected Chinese consortium CRCC Harbour-CCECC JV for the 1,700 feet-long runway extension project on the sea, worth Tk1,998 crore, on May 17 this year.

However, following an allegation, the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) under the Planning Commission probe found evidence that CRCC Harbour, a part of the consortium, committed fraud by submitting documents with misleading information and fake experience certificates to obtain the work from CAAB.

Following the revelation, the Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase cancelled the selection by CAAB and ordered a re-tender for the project.

Although the Chinese consortium was supposed to be blacklisted as a result of the fraud, CAAB allowed CCECC, the other part of the consortium, to submit documents as part of a new consortium with CYWEB in the re-tender.

“Each partner of the JV shall be jointly and seriously liable for the execution of the contract, all liabilities and ethical and legal obligations in accordance with the contract terms,” says Clause 18.3 of the tender document floated earlier.

The civil aviation authority has also prepared a proposal, for submission to the Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase, that includes CYWEB-CCECC JV as one of two shortlisted companies.

CCECC is the lowest bidder of the two companies in the re-tender process, the other company being Sinohydro, according to CAAB insiders.

According to the Public Procurement Act (PPA) 2006, controversial companies cannot participate in the tender process, and officials who are involved in controversy are not allowed in the tender committee for evaluating documents.

Also Read- Cox’s Bazar Airport: Govt reissues tender after axing controversial contractor for runway expansion project

Other bidders brought serious allegations of wrongdoing in the process of awarding work as the controversial company got the nod once again. They claimed that as the government had cancelled the first technical evaluation by the tender committee due to a gaffe, CAAB should have reformed the evaluation committee in accordance with the PPA. They also expressed concerns of bias from CAAB towards the Chinese company for its reselection despite committing fraud.

According to the PPA, the head of the procuring entity may declare a party ineligible for further participation in procurement proceedings if it appears that the party has contravened any provisions of the act.

“A company that has already been proven to have committed fraud cannot submit documents for the re-tender process as per PPA,” said Sarazeen Kazi, representative (Bangladesh), Hyundai Development Company (HDC), one of the bidders among the seven parties in the re-tender process.

“However, we have heard rumours that the same company is set to be awarded, instead of being blacklisted,” she added.

Such allegations of bias, however, were denied by CAAB officials.

“The re-tender process has been completed in compliance to the PPA,” said Air Vice-Marshal M Mafidur Rahman, Chairman, CAAB.

“As CRCC Harbour was the party found to be involved in fraudulent activities by the IMED, they are no longer being considered in the re-tender process. So, the complaints by the other bidders (against CCECC JV, the other party in the consortium) are not valid,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

Sarazeen Kazi said her party would appeal for evaluation of the re-tender documents by IMED.

Inspired by Hong Kong International Airport, the Bangladesh government took up an ambitious project to expand the runway at Cox’s Bazar airport by reclaiming land from the sea in a bid to woo tourists to the beach town.

However, building such a spectacular runway means it will be expensive and only a handful of companies in the world have the expertise to construct runways extending from shore to sea.

In November 2019, CAAB, the government body overseeing the massive project, announced the tender and fixed March 19, 2020, as the last date of submission.

A total of 10 bidders, mostly from China, Korea, and Turkey, submitted their proposals.

On May 17, 2020, CAAB selected the Chinese consortium CRCC Harbour-CCECC JV after reportedly scrutinizing their technical and financial proposals for the tender.

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However, a probe carried out by the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division found evidence that CRCC Harbour had committed fraud during the tender process, following which the government decided to cancel the tender and issued a re-tender for the much talked about