Following a protest by BK International to the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) on the award of the $3.5B Mazaruni Prison contract to a joint venture, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan says that he will be looking into the concerns raised to determine if there were any breaches in the process.
“I did receive a letter from him and yes I have learned of the protest but I will be checking with our legal team and given that I myself am an attorney, I will also check to determine if any laws were broken or what happens now with the project and so forth,” Ramjattan told Stabroek News yesterday when contacted.
In July of last year, Ramjattan announced that plans were on stream to expand the Mazaruni Prison, in keeping with one of the recommendations coming out of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into 2016 Camp Street prison fire, which left 17 inmates dead and that funds would be allocated from the 2018 Budget to execute the project.
BK International Inc. last week lodged a protest with the PPC over the award of the $3.5 billion contract and a key part of the company’s complaint is the alleged “overnight” increasing of the engineer’s estimate for the project from $2.8 billion to $3.1 billion.
When the Department of Public Information announced on October 17th 2017 that bids were out for the project, it stated that the engineer’s estimate was pegged at $2.8B.
But on December 21st when tenders for the project were opened at the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board the Engineer’s estimate was announced as $3.186B.
Then, five companies had bid for the project and their respective bids are seen in the table below.
At a Post Cabinet press conference on December 29th, Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced that the joint venture between local company, Nabi Construction and Trinidadian Kee-Chanona had won the contract.
According to documents seen by the Sunday Stabroek, it was the same day that BK began expressing concerns about the bidding process and had written to Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Security, Daneilla McCalmon.
In the company’s correspondence to the PS it made the allegation that there was a mysterious expansion of the engineer’s estimate by around $386 million at the point at which the bids were opened at NPTAB on November 21st, 2017. Its Managing Director Brian Tiwarie said his company had responded to advertisements in the national newspapers of the project under the heading `Completion of the Mazaruni Prisons, Mazaruni, Region #7 – Guyana Prison Service, Ministry of Public Security.’ The closing date for bids was November 21st at 9 am, at which point all bids would be opened. The engineer’s estimate for the project at this point was $2.8 billion as stated in the addendum to the advertisement of November 20th, 2017 in the Guyana Chronicle.
Tiwarie said that at the opening of the bids on November 21st, it was announced that five contractors had bid: BK International Inc. at $2.517 billion, Chung’s Global Enterprise at $2.729 billion, R Bassoo & Sons at $2,439 billion, Courtney Benn at $2.585 billion and Kee-Chanona and NABI at $3.562 billion. Significantly, Tiwarie said that the Engineer’s estimate at the opening of the bid was hiked to $3.185 billion.
In his December 29th missive, Tiwarie lamented that 38 days had passed since the opening of bids and his company had received no communication on its bid, which he argued was a breach of the Procurement Act.
“Moreover, my company was informed unofficially by several frustrated officials that attempts are being made to award this contract to a company with a foreign background and for a price which is in excess of $1 billion over my company’s tender price,” Tiwarie asserted.
He said that this was also nearly $400 million in excess of the new engineer’s estimate of $3.1b. Tiwarie asserted that his company had met all of the criteria in the bid document. Furthermore, he said that the company has a “diverse operation” and that its quarry located only five minutes away from the Mazaruni Prison. He further said that BK had two mobile concrete plants, which would be installed along with an offer from Trinidad Cement Limited for the construction of a mobile cement plant.
On January 3rd, 2018 McCalmon wrote Tiwarie, advising him that his company’s bid had been non-responsive for the following reasons: No evidence was submitted to indicate that any project of a similar size and complexity had been undertaken by BK; No detailed work programme was submitted; No method statement was submitted; A list of outstanding projects currently being done by BK was not tendered.
Tiwarie replied the very day to McCalmon. He stated that all four of the matters referred to by McCalmon had been addressed in BK’s bid document. He further noted that the company’s other significant contention was the “change of the Engineer’s Estimate overnight” from $2.8 billion as published in the addendum to the advertisement of November 20th, 2017 to $3.186 billion on the following day, November 21st, when the bids were opened at NPTAB.
“It is against this background that I am formally protesting/complaining of the award of this contract…,” he said.
This letter was also copied to the PPC.
On January 11th, 2018, BK wrote PPC Chair Carol Corbin contending that its bid had been responsive and raising concern over the change of the engineer’s estimate. Tiwarie told Corbin that BK was “eagerly awaiting a response to this grave concern.”