SHC suspends FBR’s Rs25b deal

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ISLAMABAD:
The Sindh High Court (SHC) has suspended the award of Rs25 billion worth contract, which the federal government gave last week to monitor production of four tax evasion prone sectors as part of a condition of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The court granted stay order after the bidders raised serious questions over the manner the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) handled the process and allegedly compromised transparency in award of the five-year deal worth minimum Rs25 billion.

“Till the next date of hearing, defendants are restrained from taking any step towards implementing or processing with the contract subject matter of this suit and license awarded to the defendant No 5 under the IFL (instruction for license) for providing track and trace system,” according to a single-judge interim order.

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The court has issued notices to the FBR and the federal government, fixing the case hearing for April 5.

A Switzerland-based company, SICPA SA had filed the suit in SHC, seeking termination of track and trace contract awarded to AJCL private limited by the FBR. The Grievances Redressal Committee had rejected the objections raised by SICPA and other bidders.

SICPA has requested the court that the award of the contract should be set aside and the whole bidding process be carried out afresh. Another bidder, Reliance IT Solutions Limited has also filed writ petition in Islamabad High Court and the case has been fixed for hearing on Monday.

The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) had also restrained the FBR from awarding the contract but withdrew its instructions within 24 hours. The bidders had raised serious objections over the manner the FBR handled the bidding process and the court’s intervention was expected in the matter.

The government has thrice attempted to curb tax evasion in sectors of tobacco, cement, fertiliser and sugar. In its latest attempt, it opened the bids on February 1 that showed AJCL Private Limited as the leading contender. The FBR and AJCL have already signed the deal to monitor productions from July. AJCL won the contract on back of highest technical score, as its financial bid was 52% expensive than the lowest bid.

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