Laptop retender sees call for ‘transparent’ evaluation

- greater scrutiny, clearer guidelines needed, says bidder

President of Giftland OfficeMax Roy Beepat says that the information which informed Cabinet’s decision to retender for the supply of computers for the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) project was flawed and has called for greater scrutiny and clearer guidelines for the transparent evaluation of the new bids.

“The information supplied to Cabinet to make its decision on the first laptop tender was flawed; we earnestly hope that greater scrutiny and clearer guidelines for the transparent evaluation of this important award is given for this project for which it so  truly deserves,” Beepat said in a release yesterday.

Giftland OfficeMax, Digital Technology and CCS Guyana Ltd were the three companies which originally bid to supply the instruments for the OLPF. However, a few weeks ago Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh announced that Cabinet had decided to retender the project, after the original bids had failed to meet the necessary specifications. The retender was published last week on Giftland OfficeMax will be submitting a bid for the project, an official from the company said.

Beepat yesterday insisted that the bid by his company was “in every way compliant with the tender requirements”. He said that the only area which his company’s bid was found non-compliant was the genuineness of the product itself, which he described as a non-issue. “It is on this point the Cabinet was misled into believing the information which was fed to it,” he said.

Project Manager for the OLPF Sesh Sukhdeo, in explaining why the bids were disqualified, said the bids from Giftland OfficeMax and Digital Technology required further clarification from the manufacturers. Sukhdeo said that in the bid document submitted by Giftland, the company had listed “Lenova” as the brand it would supply but had submitted a “Lenovo” instrument as its sample. When Lenovo was contacted, Sukhdeo said, the company “confirmed that the laptop was not a manufactured item from [its] plant.

“As you know, one of the areas also asked for a manufacturer’s authorization and in this case they couldn’t obtain the manufacturer’s authorization.”

In the case of Digital Technology, Sukhdeo said, the company had made a number of commitments on behalf of the manufacturers. According to him, when the manufacturers were contacted they “could not confirm whether those statements and comments were accurate.”

“We were left with CCS which had substantially most of the information that the tender required so that information was evaluated and presented,” Sukhdeo said. “There was information within that that required further clarification. We presented that report to Cabinet… and on that basis the decision was made to retender,” he added.

Beepat, in the release, said that Sukhdeo never asked his company’s assistance in communicating with the contracted manufacturer. “No one would expect that an unauthorized person would be privy to information on a business transaction without permission from at least one of the parties involved in the transaction,” he said. “We had arranged with the manufacturer to communicate with any government official we designated once we had advised them as to the identity of the person who would be contacting them,” he said.

Explaining the mistake in the lettering, Beepat said that his company was asked to provide a sample on very short notice and that the normal manufacturing process had to be contracted to allow for the timely delivery. “In doing so, the laptop marking was less than ideal since a single sample manufacture is not the same as a full production run,” he said. “It was under these circumstances that our marketing department made a slip up in correcting this issue with the lettering,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Beepat also queried why the retender has stated that the project is not bound to accept any of the submitted bids. “We wonder, therefore, if a bid has  reached all the requirements which is set forth in the tender document and wins on its own  merit, that this clause exists, and kindly request [an] explanation on this point, in order to clarify the transparency of the tender,” he said.

Under the OLPF, the government plans to distribute 90,000 computers to poor families over the next two years. The government has said that 50,000 units are supposed to be distributed this year.

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