IHC orders FBR to initiate fresh bidding for cigarette tracking

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The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday ordered the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to initiate fresh bidding for the cigarette tracking system in the country.

Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb announced the verdict.

On October 29, 2019, FBR granted the five-year contract to the National Radio and Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC) for a price of Rs731 per 1,000 stamps. The notification now has been set aside as two petitioners pointed out irregularities in the bidding system.

The National Institutional Facilitation Technologies (NIFT) and Authentix Inc had raised concerns over the bidding process in two different petitions.

NIFT, in its petition, had said the board was supposed to give the contract to the lowest bidder. The companies were asked to send their bids for the cost of 1,000 stamps. NIFT quoted a price of Rs868.36 per 1,000 stamps, while NRTC quoted Rs0.731 per 1,000 stamps. It was, however, later revealed that NRTC made a typo and submitted the cost of one stamp by mistake. The company tried to reason with the government and changed its quote to Rs731 per 1,000 stamps. FBR accepted it and awarded it the contract.

The rules of business, however, don’t allow companies to change their quote once it has been submitted. Other companies pointed out that in cases where there are problems with the lowest bid, then the contract should go to the second lowest bidder.

“The process adopted for allowing NRTC’s request for the correction of the mistake in its financial bid suffered from material irregularity and unreasonableness,” the court said in its judgment.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has made it mandatory for Pakistan to introduce a track and trace system for tobacco products to prevent its illegal trade.

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