Tender board working to setup debarment procedures

-catered for in law but never acted upon

The National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) says that it is currently working fervently with a consulting company to craft debarment procedures, a measure that should have been in place long ago.

“We are currently working with a consultancy firm [to put] together a document of procedures for debarment. It is catered for in the law…, but the procedures were never crafted,” Chairman of the NPTAB Berkley Wickham explained to Stabroek News.

“… I am supposed to be skyping with the consultancy company that is working on draft procedures… So you see we are working and that process is coming along,” he added.

The NPTAB Head said that the recently established Public Procurement Commission will soon take over the process on the procedures for debarment, as is catered for in the Procurement Act.

The Public Procurement Act, 17:2, which deals with functions of the national board, states, “Pending the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission, the National Board shall be responsible for making regulations governing procurement to carry out the provisions of this Act,” and “adjudicating debarment proceedings.”

Last year’s Auditor General’s report said that a consultancy firm had been hired to draft regulations under the Procurement Act, setting out the procedures to be followed by the Public Procurement Commission or NPTAB, in adjudicating debarment proceedings. The firm will also examine and make recommendations on revisions to the regulations, with a view to increasing government’s threshold limits, in light of current prices and the fact that the last increase in limits was in November, 2004.

Though government is unrelenting in its posture on having the company that built the Kato School blocked from receiving any contracts until it is satisfied that its construction works and techniques are on par, there is nothing currently in law to stop the company from bidding.

“In a democracy you have a right to tender, whether you get it is a different matter. In an open society we can’t stop persons from trying,” Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman told a post-cabinet press conference last week.

Wickham too pointed out that there is nothing to stop a bidder from tendering for a project or service.

However, he noted that during evaluations of contracts bidders can be disqualified because of criteria outlined not being met and among these are past performance and litigation.

“You can’t stop anyone from bidding. Tenders are open to the public…. You can’t just get up and debar a person like that.

It is not done like that. First of all there is no debarment procedure. But while there is no procedure there are certain clauses in the evaluations such as if you have litigation pending,  past performance, the number of contracts you have and would have completed…all those things can be taken into consideration during the evaluation criteria,” Wickham asserted.

According the to the Procurement Act, under the subsection ‘Qualification of suppliers and contractors’ (5) “(1) Every supplier or contractor wanting to participate in procurement proceedings must qualify by meeting such of the following criteria as the procuring entity considers appropriate – (i) that it possesses or has access to the technical competence, financial resources, equipment and other physical facilities, managerial capability, reliability, experience, and reputation, and the personnel, to perform the contract; (ii) that it has legal capacity to enter into the contract; (iii) that it is not insolvent, in receivership, bankrupt or being wound up, its affairs are not being administered by a court or a judicial officer, its business activities have not been suspended, and it is not the subject of legal proceedings for any of the foregoing; (iv) that it has fulfilled its obligations to pay taxes and social security contributions of its employees.

“That it has not, and its directors or officers have not, been convicted of any criminal offence related to its professional conduct or the making of false statements or misrepresentations as to its qualifications to enter into a procurement contract within a period of ten years preceding the commencement of the procurement proceedings, or has not been otherwise disqualified pursuant to administrative suspension or debarment proceedings in  this or other jurisdictions over the last three years; (vi) that its past performance substantiated by documentary evidence would commend it for serious consideration for the award of the contract.”

Government has made public its disappointment with the work of the Kato School contractor Kares Engineering. The work on the school was so shoddily done that it would now require over $150 million to correct it.

President David Granger has said that while his government will be looking to put legal measures in place so as to recover from the contractor excess sums spent correcting defects in the building, the contractor “certainly is not going to be given any more contracts to do that type of work.”

This was echoed by Trotman last week. “Do we allow the company that presided over the bad workmanship, if I can put it that way, to be compelled to go and fix it or do we surcharge them by way of taking them to court and getting damages and finding someone else to do it? Trotman questioned as he outlined some ways that the problem could be rectified.

“I believe the minister of public infrastructure will be finding ways to do some repairs to the building so that it can be safely occupied by the students. The issue of who will pay for it will be from the honourable attorney general… But certainly right now the mode of government is that we will not support this contractor until there has been some purging of the bad work and some contrition perhaps. Government is not of the mode now or has no desire to see this particular contractor get work, particularly when it involves children’s safety. It is not my intention to defame anyone but the facts speak for themselves,” he added.

Trotman called on Kares to, “Perhaps do the honourable thing of withdrawing the company from bidding, while it tries to bring itself into compliance both with the law and in terms of its own techniques for building.”