Was the award process for the Hope Conservancy Relief Channel changed from a competitive one to a negotiated one?

Dear Editor,

In SN of March 21, it was reported that a contract to provide consultancy services for the design of the Hope Conservancy Relief Channel (HCRC) was awarded to CEMCO/SRKN Engineering in association with the UK-based Mott MacDonald Company.

In early February this year, SN had reported that at the bid opening for the above-captioned project, two bids were received, one from E&A Consultants Inc and the   other from SRKN/Mott MacDonald (Consultants). It was expected that under the Central Tender Board Guide-lines a number of inflexible rules for the opening, acceptance and documentation of all bids received would have applied. Of concern during this phase would have been that (1) the bids received were sealed at the designated time and place where the bids were opened, (2) confirmation that the bids received were responsive and (3) acceptance and logging of each bidder’s name and the bid amount for all responsive bids.

A responsive bid is one that meets all of the requirements specified in the Notice Inviting Bids and the Instruction to Bidders. To be responsive a bid must be submitted on time, including all required documents; all forms must be completely and properly filled out, signed by a responsible party, and dated. No changes or alterations of any of the documents are permitted; no changes or conditions may be attached to the bid; and any addenda must be properly acknowledged.

No report was made as to whether the bids received were responsive and in conformity nor was the identity of the apparent low bidder announced. Of public concern is the consultant CEMCO which was not one of the consultants who had submitted a bid jointly or otherwise in February as was reported by SN, but its name has appeared as one of the awardees for the contract. Changing the process from making a competitive award to a negotiated award which seems to be the case, should have led to a rejection of all bids and the project re-advertised even though this would create a delay in beginning the project and even though it was understood that there was a strong possibility of receiving higher bids on the project the second time around.

On the assumption that the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) had adopted the selective bid process and allowed a price negotiation between MoA and the consultants to award this contract, then it would seem that the lack of competitiveness (since there was no evaluation and comparison of bids) would be unusual for a public contract and therefore gives cause for concern.

Nevertheless, the design contract for the East Demerara Water Conservancy relief channel is now a done deal and it is hoped that the MoA has provisions in the contract for a performance and payment bond among other necessary requirements. It is expected that during the 16 weeks contract period, MoA will receive monthly progress summaries of the studies and investigations it has paid to carry out, together with the percentage expenditure of the contract sum. Slippages in contract execution could then be quickly detected and steps taken to get the project back on track so that it is completed on time and within budget, and that after 16 weeks a completed report with all surveys and studies should on the desk of the MoA with no claim for time extension for inexcusable delays.

After the data have been analysed and project design completed, design claims for channel performance by the consultants should match reality. If not, penalties recoverable through a performance bond should be incorporated in the contract for failed design claims.

Yours faithfully,
(Name and address provided)

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