PPP/C questions failure to retender for consultancy for new Demerara crossing study

The opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) yesterday called on the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) to explain why it opted not to retender for the consultancy for the feasibility study and design for the new Demerara River crossing.

In addition, the PPP/C called on the MPI to produce records to substantiate that it notified the 22 companies that bid for the contract during the initial procurement process, which was later annulled, that their bids were rejected, in keeping with the procurement laws.

The calls came a day after the MPI admitted that the Dutch firm LievenseCSO was selected through sole sourcing for the consultancy following the annulment of the initial procurement process, which only saw one valid bid that exceeded the US$800,000 budget for the contract. The admission was made in response to a request by the PPP/C Chief Whip Gail Teixeira for the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) to investigate the award.

“The government could have easily gone to the public and say, ‘We don’t have enough money, we are retendering.’ They should have gone public and retender… you have retendered for many other projects so why not this one?” PPP/C Member of Parliament and former junior Minister of Finance Juan Edghill asked yesterday at a news conference, where he listed smaller contracts that were retendered.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed new crossing across the Demerara River. (Ministry of Public Infrastructure photo)

“If you annul a tender, the Procurement Act is there for everybody. You had 22 international firms and you say none of them qualify. We want the evaluation report. Make it public. Release the evaluation report,” Edghill urged.

Teixeira had written to the PPC detailing her concerns over the award of the contract to LievenseCSO, which was not among the 22 companies from around the world that originally bid for the contract.

She charged that the selection of the firm lacked transparency and violated the procurement laws. She further urged the PPC to also examine the new tender posted for the prequalification of contractors for the finance, design, construction and maintenance of the new bridge and to monitor the process to ensure the procurement laws are followed.

In explaining how the firm was selected, the MPI had said the initial procurement was annulled with the knowledge of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), which also granted permission for its engagement with LievenseCSO.

It said while 22 firms expressed their interest and 12 of these firms were subsequently shortlisted, only two submitted bids for the consultancy, which was advertised by the ministry with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). It added that of the two submissions, only one firm had a valid bid but its bid price exceeded the US$800,000 budget. Additionally, it noted that concerns were also raised at the technical level.

“Subsequently, [the ministry] made the decision to annul the process in May, following permission from [NPTAB] and the Ministry of Finance,” it explained, while adding that it nevertheless continued to seek suitable consultants due to the significance of the project and the need for its realisation.

The ministry said it actively sought greatly qualified consultants worldwide and it was during engagements with various companies, including those in the Netherlands, the Dutch Risk Reduction Team that had visited, and in England, LievenseCSO, was recommended.

It noted that the firm’s bid was subsequently found to be the best, technically and fiscally, of all that had been received.

Against this background, the MPI welcomed the investigation by the PPC, while saying it was confident that the findings would reveal that its statements about the award were factual.

However, Edghill said that with the initial process annulled, there was no other bid for government to compare the LievenseCSO submission with.  “What did they compare it with?” he asked.

He also asserted that in light of government’s explanation that a bid went over the US$800,000 that the IDB had set aside for the project, it would not have hurt for govnerment to add some money to undertake the study, given the magnitude of the project. He said one of the bids was US$848,000. “Why the Government of Guyana could not have provided the $10 million or US$50,000 to cover the shortfall?’ he asked.

Edghill also questioned why government sought out LievenseCSO for the contract after it showed no interests when the tender was first advertised.

“I have a bigger question: How did they know about this contract? They showed no interest. How could you sole source from a company that showed no interest in the first instance? You advertised, had international bulletins, where all these big wig firms bid and a man said ‘I am not interested’ but you cancelled all the 22 companies that bid?” Edghill mused.

“You said, ‘I don’t like your price, you don’t look like you can do all the work, you don’t look like you have the ability’ but yet you call a man and say, ‘We want to give you sole sourced and you don’t have to bid against nobody?’ How did you know about this company?” he asked.

Edghill compared the arrangement to the controversial rental of a Sussex Street bond owned by a PNCR supporter to the Ministry of Health without any public tendering.  “It is like how [the] Linden Holdings company knew about the Ministry of Health [needing] a bond? The bond was sole sourced,” he said.

Edghill called on Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson to tell the nation what are the special skills of the company that put it above all of the others that had tendered under the first procurement process.

Patterson was also called on to produce the procurement process documents which would show the nation that his ministry followed the law in annulling the first contract and sole sourcing LievenseCSO.

“I will apologise to this nation if you give a copy of the tender board minutes as it relates to the decision of this Dutch company. We want a copy of the evaluation report of the 22 and I want you to tell me when the decision was made for the annulment of the 22,” the he stressed.

“And according to the procurement laws, if you are annulling a process or you don’t award to a tenderer, you have to write to every one of the bidders telling them they were disqualified and the reason/s why. Show me a copy of those letters. Show me copies of the letter you write to the 22 people that you annul the process and why…We want the evaluation report. Release it, make it public. Just as how you hurriedly put out a statement last night, release it,” he added.

Teixeira, who was present, added that the IDB should also disclose if it indeed supplied funding for the project and if it met required financial and other standards it set out.

“What is at stake now is the credibility of the IDB,” she asserted. “It is important for the IDB to say, ‘Yes we are funding this project…,’” she added as she called for the lender to “put clarity to this issue.”

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