Fishiness in avoiding third party monitoring

Chenab Bridge, under construction over Chenab river in Akhnoor sector and having the distinction of being the longest bridge in Northern India, looked after by the Jammu and Kashmir Roads and Buildings Department, has come under focus for a reason extraneous to the technicalities or the engineering and professional reasons. It is intriguing that a bizarre and unusual way is crafted with intent to keep away or at least arrange prolonging for an unspecified period, third party monitoring of work on this important and vital bridge, a requirement which was knowingly attached to the process of the construction works for better results. Like this, scope for raising of eye brows and that too genuinely and not unnecessarily, is created and most importantly, was tantamount to gross violation of the set guidelines of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH).
Launched in September 2018, the project of this vital Chenab bridge, at an estimated cost of Rs. 120 crore and scheduled to be completed by March 2021 was decided to be under third party monitoring, looking to the strategic importance of this bridge . Why should this monitoring appear to be thought as some type of an unwanted ombudsman- ship when the approach should be to welcome several layers of monitoring from outside agencies competent in the respective field in order to have a cross check on technical, financial, regulatory, quality and timeline grounds which would make the project a successfully completed venture. Monitoring of projects otherwise being a multi- faceted task should therefore be shared rather than restricted to one agency itself . Needless to add, this is no new concept calling to be rescinded or reviewed as the Government has experimented it with good results in respect of important Keedian Gadyal bridge over river Ravi and several other important bridges in the state in the recent past. Measures aimed at transparency, clarity and professional supervision in tandem must be introduced in all developmental projects especially the one under reference with not any optional compliance but as an important ingredient of the entire project. Any wilful deviation from or finding loose or exit holes in the requirement of such a monitoring would invite suspicion and misgivings wherein motives too could be attributed.
It has been observed in the instant case that during the last one year the R&B authorities (Division No.3 Jammu) invited tenders as many as four times for ‘arranging to select’ the requisite third party for monitoring the project but it is beyond comprehension as to why the same were cancelled under the alibi of ‘technical reasons’ and that also repeatedly. Why every time the tenders were withdrawn through corrigendum , the latest one being that of September 23, this year . The corrigendum of the Department just mentioned , “Due to technical reasons the e-tender invited for the above mentioned work is hereby withdrawn.” Under whose explicit instructions was this deviation built up?
The question which is very pertinent is whether the tendering process was just to showcase the requirements of formality having been ‘met’ since the process was not taken to its logical ends seriously and sincerely only to prepare ground for considerations outside the scope of the guidelines, procedures and checks and balances exercise ? It is worth noting that the project guidelines have it that 3% of the project cost is entitled for the Authority’s Engineering consultancy which is being shared by the Roads and Buildings itself. Maintenance for four years of the bridge after its commissioning otherwise had to be seen and ensured by the construction agency , the joint venture engaged in construction works , too had the chances of being affected due to violation of the guidelines of MORTH by the R&B Department in respect of third party monitoring.
However, if the Professional dexterity and competence to the levels of required levels of satisfaction in respect of third party monitoring are possessed by the R&B Department and who reportedly could do it on their own, as the sense or the feel is derived, why were tenders floated at all and what about the mandatory provision of Third Party Monitoring like issues, remain riddles not solved.