Omni Group involved in price gouging of medical supplies from China has a long history

Published On: March 31, 2020 07:55 AM NPT By: Sunil Sapkota

The Group was involved in a similar controversial procurement deal while supplying printing machines to the Election Commission in 2017

KATHMANDU, March 31: The Omni Group which was awarded the contract to supply various medical equipment and logistics to control the coronavirus (COVID-19) by the government at exorbitantly higher prices is found to have been involved in similar controversial procurement deals with the Election Commission (EC) when the Group supplied faulty printing machines to the EC at higher prices.

The EC had procured three printers from Omni Business Corporate International Private Limited for the purpose of Provincial Assembly and House of Representatives elections held in 2017 at the cost of nearly Rs 250 million.

But since the printing machines purchased at such a high cost were not in the condition to print the ballot papers needed for the by-election held a few months ago, the EC was forced to give the task to Janak Education Material Center Limited, Sanothimi. A senior official at the EC told Republica that the printing machines procured from the Omni Group without any competitive bidding are already out of order.

Citing urgency to procure the machines in view of the looming election dates, the Election Commission had procured one color and two black and white printing machines at Rs 246.72 million without following any competitive bidding process.

A senior official at the EC told Republica that the government had provided Rs 260 million to EC, transferring the money from its other account to procure these three printing machines. The EC officials then cited that 13 printers they already had at their disposal were not in a position to be used even if they would be repaired.

The task of printing the voters' list and ballot papers in the recently held by-election was given to Janak Education Material Center after two of the three printers bought from the Omni Group were found to be out of order," said an official at the EC.

The official said the ballot papers for the recently held election of the members of National Assembly, however, were printed with the help of the old printers the EC has at its disposal.

Information Office at the Election Commission Surya Prasad Aryal confirmed that the voters' lists and ballot papers required for the by-election held recently were printed at Janak Education Materials Center. He also confirmed that the ballot papers and other documents necessary for the election of National Assembly members were printed at their own printing facilities. Printer Procurement 'setting' this!

The EC had already taken a decision to provide the task of printing the voters' lists and ballot papers to Janak Education Materials Center for the elections to the members of Provincial Assembly and House of Representatives when this procurement 'setting' was deliberately weaved. A few officials and the EC commissioners then made a plan to procure printing machines from Omni Group that had earlier bagged the tender to print the voters' identity cards across the country, with the sole intention of making money out of the deal.

Sources said Omni Group had sold away the same printers that were used to print the voters' identity cards for more than 15 million voters across the country as per the business 'setting' made in collusion with the EC officials and Tulhari Singh of Omni Group.

Documents obtained by Republica show that the printers were procured in a specially designed business 'setting' as the companies-- Omni Business Corporate Inc Private Limited, Shastra Network Solution Inc and Imagine Technologies Private Limited-- that submitted sealed quotation are found to be part of the same group.

Shastra Network Solution Inc is a subsidiary of Omni Business Corporate Inc. Suman Singh, who is the spouse of the owner of Omni Business Corporate Tulahari Singh and Kanchana Pantha-- the wife of Kishor Pantha, a business partner of Tulahari Singh-- have major shares in the Shastra Network Solution Inc. Similarly, Imagine Technology Private Limited is a company owned by Uttam Luitel, who is affiliated to the Omni Group. Luitel himself is currently employed at Omni Group.

In an apparent business collusion, Omni Group had quoted Rs 246.72 million, Shastra Network Solution Rs 264.27 million and Imagine Technologies Rs 261.36 millions to supply the printing machines. The Omni Group was able to secure the tender since its bid amount was nearly 20 million less than the two other companies.

Details obtained by Republica show that a meeting of the EC held on October 5, 2017 had decided to approve the proposal to buy the printing machines along with its technical specifications at the cost of Rs 267.68 million including VAT.

A former EC Commissioner said the responsibility of making the procurement deal was given to the then Commissioner Ishwari Poudyal, who is said to have good relations with Tulahari Singh of Omni Group.

The former commissioner said that the printing machines were bought from Omni Group in collusion between Commissioner Paudyal and then Secretary at the EC Begendra Sharma Paudel. Repeated attempts by Republica to reach out to Poudel to inquire about this could not succeed.

Shastra Network Solution is an IT Company that has been able to bag important contracts such as video conferencing facilities at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and routers procured by National Information Technology Centers.

Office of the Auditor General (OAG) has also concluded that the three printing machines were procured by Omni Group without following any competitive bidding process. The OAG has said that a color and two back and white printers were procured without competitive bidding process even as tasks of printing almost all election materials were completed.

The OAG in its report has stated that the ballot papers for the elections to the members of the Provincial Assembly and House of Representatives were printed at Janak Education Material Center as Omni Group delayed purchasing some key parts of the machines, toners and their installation works.

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