The government has dropped its plan to procure armoured bulletproof vehicles for seven heads of state and government during the 18th Saarc Summit scheduled for November 22-27 in kathmandu, citing lack of time and to avoid any kind of financial controversy.
After putting off the plan to purchase the high-end bulletproof cars from world’s premium car makers BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the government has decided to hire seven bulletproof cars from a private car rental firm in India for the Summit.
Officials pointed to two reasons behind the government’s decision. First, the Cabinet does not want to be dragged into controversy if there happened to be some kind of corruption or financial embezzlement during the high-profile government procurement. Secondly, in view of both India and China offering all possible logistical help for the forthcoming Saarc Summit, the government saw hiring the bulletproof cars from a private car rental company as a safer bet than choosing one neighbour over the other.
“Although only limited number of bulletproof cars are available for hire in India, we are confident that our requirements will be met,” said a Cabinet minister.
However, ministers are said to have reached an agreement to buy 7-8 armoured bulletproof cars through a competitive bidding for the fourth Bimstec Summit that Nepal is scheduled to host in 2017.
During his Nepal visit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pledged all possible help to Nepal for the Saarc Summit, while China conveyed similar message to Prime Minister Sushil Koirala during his meetings with Chinese officials in Kunming at the Second China- South Asia Exposition.
“It is impossible now to procure vehicles from international market on time for the Saarc Summit,” said Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey.
“The firms take at least two months to deliver the consignment after the formal contracts. We have started discussion with car rental firms in India to hire bulletproof vehicles as it is the only option left before us.”
Though the two luxury premier car makers—BMW and Mercedes-Benz—have offered competitive prices to provide the seven armored bulletproof cars, a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday informally decided to hire bullet proof cars from India just for the purpose of the upcoming Saarc Summit.
BMW has offered to provide armored bulletproof cars which were used at London Olympics for a brief period for 252,000 euros each. Another German car maker Mercedes has offered to deliver bulletproof cars for 500,000 euros each within 45 days of agreement.
But the Cabinet were sharply divided over purchasing expensive bulletproof vehicles from Mercedes when a cheaper option was available. Of the five auto major, only BMW and Mercedes responded to the global tender called by the government through its diplomatic missions abroad.
“The only option that was left before us was buying second hand BMWs, but ministers suggested that buying from a single firm could be challenged in the court of law or anti-graft body. It is also against the local procurement act,” said the minister.
Under the Public Procurement Act, a bidding process should have a minimum of three companies to be considered a valid process.