Twenty-four hundred nippers/pliers which were procured by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) were delivered on April 23, 2015, five days before the contract was signed, according to a special investigation by the Office of the Auditor General, which has also concluded that $3m could have been saved if Klein pliers were bought instead.
This final report on the acquisition of the nippers is one of three that were recently completed and like the other two – one regarding the purchase of radio sets and another concerning the acquisition of ink toners and cartridges – police intervention was recommended. All three reports identify severe procurement breaches which will raise questions about what has been transpiring at GECOM. This report, which was submitted by the Auditor General on September 29, 2017 to Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield, relates to the purchase of the nippers in 2015.
According to the report which was seen by Stabroek News, in March 2015 requests for quotations (RFQ) were sent out by the Administrative Department to four suppliers for the unit cost of 203mm Klien pliers and 160mm Max steel narrow head diagonal nippers. However only Kanhai’s Guyana Electrical Company submitted quotations for both items. The other suppliers only quoted the price for the max steel narrow head diagonal nippers.
Kanhai’s unit cost for the nipper was $9000 and the pliers $4,950. Standards Distributors and Fix It Hardware unit prices for the nippers were $6195 for the Felo brand and $9000 respectively.
The quotation for the fourth supplier, National Hardware Guyana Limited was not presented by the Commission for the audit.
The report said that the commission was functioning without an Agency Tender Board prior to May 2015 and as such the Administrative Manager evaluated the quotations. It was stated in the report that although one supplier quoted for the Klein pliers in line with the RFQ, it was not included on the evaluation spreadsheet which was stamped approved for processing and signed by Lowenfield.
It was stated that a letter dated March 24, 2015 was sent to National Procure-ment and Tender Adminis-tration Board (NPTAB) recommending the purchase of 2400 arrow head diagonal nippers/pliers from Standard Distributors in the sum of $14.868M on the basis that this company had quoted the cheapest price. However, the report pointed out that Kanhai’s price for the Klein pliers, which was included in the request for quotation was actually lower than Standard Distributors’ quotation for the Felo diagonal nipper which was not included in the request for quotation.
“As can be garnered from the above, the Commission apparently considered the quoted price of the Felo diagonal nipper which was not included in the RFQ but did not consider the quoted price for the Klein …pliers which was included in the RFQ. Further the Klein pliers was quoted lower than the Felo nipper which again was apparently not considered by the Commission. This was the apparent basis of the recommended purchase of the Felo nippers as being the `cheapest’”, the report said while pointing out that the commission could have saved $2.988M if the Klein pliers were purchased instead of nippers.
It was stated that GECOM and Standard Distributors signed a $14.868 contract on April 28, 2015 for the supply of the nippers. An amount of $5.947 M representing 40% of the contract amount was paid to the supplier on May 8, 2015 via cheque. The contract, the report said also stipulated that the remaining amount be paid to the supplier on completion of works by supplying all items purchased. However, an amount of $8.493M representing 57% of the contract sum was paid to the supplier on June 4, 2015 via cheque resulting in an underpayment of approximately $428,000.
The report said that a delivery note seen indicated that the 2400 nippers/pliers were delivered on April 23, 2015.
The Audit Office recommended that appropriate disciplinary action be taken against those culpable for negligence of duty in apparently not considering the quotation for the pliers which would have resulted in the commission saving $2.988M. Further, the report recommended that the police should be called in to conduct an in-depth investigation and institute charges if criminal offences have been deemed to have been committed.
In June this year, Lowenfield was grilled by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament on the pliers contract and others.
Responding to PAC member Nigel Dharamlall’s query as to why so much money was spent on pliers, Lowenfield said that the pliers are used to open ballot boxes to prevent the tops of the boxes from being damaged as was the case in the past.
He stated that the purchases were made in 2006 and 2011, as decisions were taken then to “ensure that each presiding officer across the spectrum on polling day would have a kit”. Lowenfield assured that no new pliers were purchased for use during local government elections in 2016, as the ones bought during the aforementioned years were used.