The controversial award of a juice contract to Surinamese company Rudisa could be in deep trouble as the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) was unable to do a vital test because of broken equipment and no sample from the aggrieved local bidder, Topco was provided for comparison.
Head of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department Marlan Cole told Stabroek News that had a sample from Tropical Orchard Products (Topco) been provided, it would have come out ahead of the other boxes tested because of its natural juice content.
Topco, which is a subsidiary of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) is one of two bidders that have protested the award to Rudisa subsidiary, Caribbean International Distributors Inc (CIDI). The protests have been lodged with the recently-established Bid Protest Committee.
Cole’s revelations will add to well-founded concerns about the manner in which evaluation committees have recommended awards to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) and then transmitted to Cabinet for its no-objection.
In this particular case, after DDL complained to the Ministry of the Presidency about the award, the Department of Public Information (DPI) issued a statement in which it contended, among other things, that the GA-FDD had tested samples for natural juice content. GA-FDD did do some testing but not for juice content.
As a matter of fact, GA-FDD said it used the labels on the boxes of two juices at the centre of contract protest, to arrive at a decision to choose one since it didn’t have the capacity to test actual percentage of fruit juice content.
And while the products from the other two companies that bid for the contract to supply and deliver juices for the Ministry of Education’s distribution programme were not also tested, GA-FDD said the local Topco juice would have edged out all of its competitors because it is made from fruit and not concentrate or pulps.
“The Ministry of Education sent GA-FDD a letter on July 6. We were asked to determine if these products had 30 milligrammes vitamin C, five per cent iron and 25% real fruit juice. But we could not do what they asked… We don’t have the capacity to do actual percentage testing,” Cole explained to Stabroek News.
“We wrote to them explaining what we did…’Please be advised that the department was unable to determine the parameters that were listed in the letter. However parameters such as percentage BRIX and percentage ASH were done instead.’ Both parameters speak of the quality and consistency of the juices,” he added, as he read from the correspondence that the GA-FDD had sent to the Ministry of Education in reply.
Cole’s response would call into question how the evaluation committee made its decision.
Four bids were submitted for the contract, on May 24 of this year, when the NPTAB opened tenders at its Main and Urquhart streets office, Georgetown.
The table below reflects the companies that tendered for the contract and their respective amounts.
The contract was awarded to CIDI but both Topco and Kool Kidz’s representatives, DDL and Guyana Beverages Inc respectively, have filed protests over the award arguing that their products met both the technical and administrative requirements needed.
ANSA McAl said that it has not yet received word from the Ministry of Education on why it lost the bid and will await such time before it decides a course of action to be taken.
A statement from the government’s DPI last week said that in the case of the contract for the supply of the boxed juices, a recommendation was made by the NPTAB to have the contract awarded to the third highest bidder (Rudisa) as it had satisfied all the technical and administrative requirements. Cabinet subsequently offered its no-objection to the recommendation and the contract was awarded accordingly.
It further noted that Cabinet was advised that the lowest bidder (DDL) was not recommended for the contract in view of issues with past performance dating back to 2012. There was no elaboration by the DPI on this.
“Further, the second lowest bid (Guyana Beverages) did not meet a technical requirement of 25% natural juice content in each box after tests conducted by the Food and Drug Department,” the DPI statement added.
Cole informed that the Ministry of Education supplied GA-FDD with two products: CIDI’s MORE (®) Multifruit Nectar and Guyana Beverage Inc’s Fruta Kool Kidz (®) juice drink for analysis.
“The department was able to conclude, based on the descriptions on the juices’ labels that More Nectar contains about 25-50 per cent juice and Kool Kidz approximately 10-20 per cent juice. That is based on what is said on the label, based on the scientific classification, of what is a juice drink and what is a nectar. We don’t have the capacity to do actual percentage juice testing,” he explained.
He said that the GA-FDD’s machine that can test for the juice content “is broken down”, and it was the reason that the machine was not functional that the department relied on the labels supplied.
Asked if DDL’s Topco’s juice was sent he said, “No” and stressed that if it was then that product would have surpassed the other two and GA-FDD’s work would have been clear cut.
This is because Topco is made from real fruit and not nectars or pulps of fruits which involve more processing and preservatives, Cole also noted.
“Topco juice is a natural product so it would have been superior to both of these two juices. It is made from fresh fruit.
It is a whole juice made from fresh fruits which are grown here, so it is a better product, compared to the two that are made from concentrate,” he posited.