Gov’t stands by ‘One Laptop’ bid evaluations

-Giftland denies submitting counterfeit sample

Government yesterday staunchly defended the evaluation process for the first tender for the supply of computers for the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) project and said that Giftland OfficeMax was disqualified because it submitted a “counterfeit” Lenovo computer sample.

However, President of Giftland Roy Beepat, when contacted, denied this and said that he had submitted to Cabinet certificates indicating that his company had dealt directly with Lenovo in China.

“I don’t want to say that Giftland supplies to the Guyanese public counterfeit goods. I don’t want to say that. But from what we have seen from Lenovo, the laptop that they (Giftland) have provided is a counterfeit,” Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir, who was earlier this month tasked by Cabinet with responsibility for the project, said during a press conference held at his office.

Minister Manzoor Nadir comparing the sample Giftland submitted (right) with another

Nadir said that the evaluators, while seeking to verify the documents submitted by Giftland OfficeMax, especially the certificate which it submitted from a third party who claimed to be licensed to be a Lenovo distributor, contacted  Domingo J Alonso, the Lenovo Territory Manager for Central America & Caribbean, who said that the samples submitted were not authentic Lenovo Products. Copies of the correspondence between Alonso and the local personnel were distributed to the media.

Giftland OfficeMax, Digital Technology and CCS Guyana Ltd were the three companies which originally bid to supply the instruments for the OLPF project. 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.

Beepat, in a release on Monday, said that the information which informed Cabinet’s decision to re-tender was flawed and called for greater scrutiny and clearer guidelines for the transparent evaluation of the new bids. The Giftland proprietor 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. Beepat also wrote to President Bharrat Jagdeo on the issue.

However, Nadir fiercely rejected Beepat’s contention that his bid was compliant. “I want to say, in no uncertain terms, this bidder is living in ‘la la land.’ I don’t know when he dreamt that,” the minister said.

Nadir also said that Giftland did not meet the requirements when it came to honouring warranty.  “Warranty is important…warranty and software,” he said. “Giftland was also disqualified because of having a third party, somebody out of Canada, saying in a letter that they would provide the warranty support and the servicing for the first year,” the minister said.

“I think it is utter stupidity,” Beepat said last evening when asked to respond to what Nadir had said.  An upset Beepat said that he had recently submitted additional material to the Cabinet to authenticate the details in his bid but instead of checking this, it rushed to the media and used old correspondence to justify their statements. “I don’t want to make enemies with the government. It gets you nowhere but we don’t want the public to think we sell fake products,” he said.

According to Beepat, the government only checked with Lenovo USA but according to him Giftland dealt directly with the parent company in China.  “Lenovo is not a USA brand, it’s a Chinese brand,” he said. He said that he contacted the same people the evaluators had contacted showing them the certificates, but has gotten no response.

Beepat said he only submitted the certificates on Monday. Asked why he only did this on Monday, the proprietor said that the bidding process only asked for a manufacturer’s authorization not any certificates.

One of Beepat’s complaints was that the company was never contacted to verify any of the information. Questioned about this yesterday, Nadir said that the evaluators were not bound to check with any of the bidders.  Elaborating on the matter, Project Manager Sesh Sukhdeo said that this was a pre-qualification bid and “at that stage we are going through a pass/fail and we are looking at the documents provided”. “Why do we need to go and seek clarification, when clearly it is a pass or a fail?” he asked, while noting that every tenderer agreed to a pre-qualification criteria. “On that basis what clarification is required?” he asked.

Mistake

Meanwhile, Nadir said that the notice published last week on the government procurement website retendering for the supply of laptops for the project was a “mistake,” and that the re-tender will be launched soon.

“That was a mistake,” he said, in response to a question. “The final draft has been gone through and somehow, it ended up for publication. We haven’t finalized the final draft, because we have just gone through the conditions, the specifications, the formulae…but these tenders have to be reviewed by our legal team,” he said. So we didn’t reach that process and hopefully we’ll get it done before the end of this week,” he added.  He said that in evaluating the new bids much emphasis will be placed on price and specifications.

Nadir said that following Cabinet’s decision to quash the original tender, consultations were held with various suppliers in the country. Asked whether this had been a case of the “cart being placed before the horse”, Nadir answered in the negative.

“The world of technology changes every minute. And you will be surprised that some of the things available in these now are no longer manufactured. …There are some subtle changes in the tender document and now we have to build in a certain amount of consideration there. So, if tomorrow we don’t get any tender, and we go back there, we will probably see the specs changing. Because every single day something changes,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nadir said that the government is still looking at the beginning of October for the laptops to be distributed and for the training sessions to begin. He said that close to 44,000 persons have applied to benefit from this phase of the project.

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