The much delayed project of installing e-gates at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) as one of the solutions to passenger congestion is still to make any headway due to procurement irregularities, airport and aviation sources revealed.
The project, which began in 2017, was stalled on numerous occasions due to difficulties with obtaining the right approvals and expenditure. However, the installation was overdue as the latest attempt to award the contract is still hanging in the balance.
The installation of electronic gate facilities at the BIA has come to a halt after awarding the procurement tender of the project to the highest bidder, causing massive loss to the country after its commencement in 2017.
The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Aviation has sought a clarification on the procedure of awarding the tender from the Chairman of the Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited following the exposure of tender irregularities.
However, the ministry has now instructed to hold the procurement contract which is to be awarded to the supplier with highest quotation in the tender called on December 15, 2021, Airport and Aviation sources said.
An attempt was made recently to get signatures of the board of directors to a circular for the approval to procure the e-gates but was unsuccessful due to a decision by the ministry to suspend the project.
According to reliable information, officials of the Department of Immigration, in the evaluation, have a hand in expediting this procurement and it was observed that nominated bidder has given a massive discount of 35 percent on the originally offered price USD 2.08 million to expedite this procurement process in favor for them due to some unknown reasons.
A joint proposal by the then Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and former Internal Affairs Minister S.B. Nawinna to set up an e-gate system, consisting of 10 e-gates at a cost of Rs. 260 million, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in September 2018.
The move was to provide an alternative to the present manual controls by the Immigration and Emigration Department, which regulates the arrivals and departures into and out of the country.
Although the Project was initiated in 2017, it was not implemented due to various reasons and bids were called to award the tender four e-gates two at the arrival terminal and another two at the departures terminal on December 15, 2021 with four suppliers submitting their bids.
The awarding of the tender dragged on for some time due to technical evaluation and the other tender procedures.
However, the tender awarding process resumed in July 2022 and it was awarded to the highest bidder who had quoted a price of Rs. 430 million at that time, official documents showed.
The bids of three other suppliers who had quoted lower prices of Rs. 130 million, Rs. 230 million and Rs. 240 million were not considered without citing reasons, informed official sources said.
Accordingly, the the contract of the e-gate tender has been given to the selected highest bidder at a price of Rs. 770 million which is Rs. 340 million more than his previous quotation of Rs. 430 million due to rupee depreciation and by considering the present value of rupee to the dollar, official documents indicated.
If the contract is awarded to a supplier selected from the lowest bidders, the country could have saved at least Rs. 540 million - Rs. 640 million, informed sources said.