The Procurement Act 2003 contains regulations for the procurement of goods, services and the execution of works, with a view to promoting competition among suppliers and contractors and fairness and transparency in the procurement process. However, despite this Act, many shady, questionable occurrences have continued to take place.
As we have been in operation for 38 years, we have engaged many government ministries, institutions, commissions and agencies where tendering for security services was required. With the genesis of the long awaited Public Procurement Commission (PPC), I, like most suppliers and Guyanese in general, expected some positive changes in the procurement process. Of recent, there have been several inconsistencies, discrepancies and uncertainties in the tendering system for security services. On the face of it, there is definite confusion on the part of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB), the government procuring entities and other state agencies about the documents necessary for tenders.
One case is the tender for the Ministry of Business which has been annulled for a second time. There seems to be no common understanding about the licence to operate a private security firm, the police certificate and the police certified security plan. It took our company weeks, going on to months to properly understand what the police certificate was, and to our surprise, the police had no knowledge of the police security plan. The Ministry of Business, however, was using this licence as the police certificate. This would have been dandy but this misunderstanding would have cost our company the security contract.
During the meeting at the Ministry of Business with reference to the non-responsiveness of several private security companies in terms of bids, the first issue was the reason given by the ministry for the annulment of the tender process. The facial expressions and body language of all gathered instantly changed when the chair of the meeting said that the annulment of the tender process was due to all bidders failing to provide a police certificate. All representatives of the security firms were taken aback by this most unjustified reason.
As mentioned before, our company of long standing has never heard of this certificate being issued by the police, and by all accounts, neither had Ms Sharon Alexander (Chair) nor Mr Spencer. Strangely, they strongly argued that there were two or three companies that fulfilled this criterion although only one private security firm was absent. One can conclude that if all parties at a meeting express their bewilderment about a document, how then can two or three firms be compliant? Our company’s officers like other officers from various companies were livid at the tone and lack of justification.
All present at this meeting contended that a police certificate had never been issued to private security companies but rather, a receipt for $50,000.00 from the office of the Commissioner of Police which could be presented in any tender document. Imagine, even the treasurer of the Guyana Association of Private Security Organizations (GAPSO), Mr Clyde Layne was baffled since he stated that no member of GAPSO had that police certificate.
It is important to note, this issue is not exclusive to the Ministry of Business. In many tender documents distributed by government bodies, pages are frequently omitted, presumably inadvertently; blank pages are inserted for no clear reason; there is a duplication of rate sheets; incorrect dates and incorrect information. In the security tender for the Ministry of Education (the case currently with the PPC), there were seventeen mistakes which needed to be verified, all of which could have disqualified our company from the tendering process. When our company’s officers attended the meeting to discuss the tender, the matters were treated lightly when our company was facing disqualification if not answered. This issue goes beyond errors in the tender document itself, and extends even to the due day when tenders are opened at the Ministry of Finance. All of which is confusing and questionable.
It was observed that on several occasions, the representatives from the various governmental organizations were absent and stalled the already slothful process of opening tenders according to the prepared list. This in turn creates havoc in relation to the other tenders scheduled to be opened, and the back and forth is not only mentally draining but unfair to the other companies tendering.
Our aim is not to embarrass any minister or ministry, but to highlight the infractions, injustices and malpractices that are occurring in the procurement process. In our view, procurement officers at the various government entities should take their time when preparing tender documents. The copying and pasting from other tender documents for cement, construction or catering services will not necessarily fit into the tender document for security services. I advise greater commitment and care when preparing these important tender documents. Many times, when our company attempts to contact the Permanent Secretary or the procurement officer from the ministry tendering for security services, there is either no response or there is a lack of information presented, and the disinterest in providing assistance is quite obvious.
When retendering is done over and over, private security companies incur costs due many times to the negligence of the procuring entity. In addition to the cost factor to acquire the bid, there is security, which is an imperative component of the evaluation criteria (adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars) and preparation and printing (binding). Additionally, there is the time factor as staffers work lengthy hours on preparation to ensure all the criteria and requirements are fulfilled.
Permanent secretaries at the various ministries should be briefed thoroughly before the tenders are advertised. If this is not done, the Permanent Secretary who is the chief accounting officer could be held accountable, and this would bring embarrassment to the NPTAB, the ministry and the entire government.
After being in the tendering system for many years I can say it would appear that since the new administration took power, the process has gotten worse. Being a professional, I have no personal political axe to grind but simply seek to highlight what happens in public procurement.
Roshan Khan Sr
RK’s Guyana Security Services