ONGC opens bids despite complaints to IEMs

Vol 25, PW 12 (19 May 22) People & Policy

Questions are being asked why ONGC was in a hurry to open price bids in a tender in which two bidders were unable to complete bid submission, and their complaints are pending before ONGC's panel of Independent External Monitors (IEMs).

On May 13 (2022), ONGC opened price bids for its Barge Bumper, Boat Landings and Riser Protector Replacement Project-IV (BBLRP-IV) tender, even though the IEMs were yet to give their verdict on complaints by Mumbai-based Supreme Offshore Constructions & Technical Services and Nigeria's Brightwaters Energy regarding their inability to complete bid submission on March 16 (2022). When ONGC opened price bids, Carlton Offshore Engineers emerged lowest at $59m; Das Offshore followed at $69m, but ONGC disqualified HAL Offshore.

All three companies are Mumbai-based. ONGC's internal budget for this project is $42m.

On May 9 (2022), at its video conference meeting with ONGC's IEMs, Supreme set out the sequence of events that led to its inability to submit the BBLRP-IV price bid at 3.51pm on March 16, nine minutes before the deadline. Brightwaters Energy was, unusually, scheduled to present its case to the IEMs on the same day and time as Supreme.

Like Supreme's meeting, the Brightwaters meeting with the IEMs was scheduled on May 9 at 4pm. Brightwaters claims it received the video link from ONGC more than an hour late.

By this time, Brightwaters executives had to leave for meetings elsewhere. Brightwaters sent emails to ONGC after 4pm on May 9 requesting the video link.

ONGC asked them to wait, but with no clear time frame. After waiting more than an hour, Brightwaters sent an email asking ONGC to reschedule the meeting with the IEMs.

ONGC did not respond. Supreme also received the video link one hour late but waited and managed to present its case to the IEMs.

During the presentation, the IEMs responded that, according to ONGC, other companies submitted bids after 3.51pm. Supreme told the IEMs that other companies faced similar problems in unrelated ONGC tenders.

As required, Supreme submitted a 'soft copy' of its presentation. "The IEMs told Supreme they know the case's background," says a source.

"They heard Supreme but did not indicate when they'll submit a report."