Ministry defends feasibility study award for new bridge

-in face of rebuke from procurement commission

DHBC General Manager, Rawlston Adams (right) and Arie Mol of LievenseCSO (left) shaking hands following the signing of the contract in December of 2016.

Citing time constraints and Cabinet’s blessing of the decision, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) yesterday defended the single-sourcing of a Dutch firm to do the feasibility study for the Demerara Harbour Bridge following a stinging rebuke last week by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC).

The PPC ruled that MPI breached procurement rules by selecting LievenseCSO which tendered an unsolicited.

The blunt PPC ruling will be seen as a major embarrassment for the Granger administration whose constituents while in opposition had often pilloried the former PPP/C government for breaches of procurement laws. The PPC had been engaged in the matter following a complaint by the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic MP Gail Teixeira.

Yesterday, in a statement via the Department of Public Information, MPI restated the sequence of events leading up to the award of the feasibility contract and also condemned what it said was a campaign of disinformation by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo. At a press conference last week, Jagdeo had released the PPC report to the media.

Yesterday’s statement from MPI did not make a single reference to the PPC or its findings.

MPI’s recount of the events leading up to the choice of the Dutch firm mirrors that which was presented by the PPC in its report. In its defence yesterday, MPI cited what it said were time constraints surrounding the need to complete the new bridge over the Demerara River and the fact that Cabinet had been fully involved in the decision to hire LievenseCSO.

MPI pointed out that an advertisement was placed for the feasibility study in November 2015 and 23 submissions came in. Twelve of these were shortlisted but only two submitted detailed proposals. LievenseCSO  was shortlisted but did not submit a proposal. One of the proposals was deemed inconsistent by the evaluation committee and the other far in excess of the budget.

MPI said yesterday: “This then left the Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Public Infrastructure in a most peculiar situation of having faithfully and dutifully executed the outlined procurement process and having yielded zero result for a project which is of national importance.

“MPI then sought a change of programme for the budgetary allocation for the DRB (Demerara River Bridge) feasibility study and this was granted by the Ministry of Finance.

“Around the same time of reaching agreement with the NPTAB (National Procurement and Tender Administration Board) on the annulment of the process, an unsolicited proposal was received from LievenseCSO Infrastructure & Environment with Econovision and Ace Consultancy, one of the shortlisted firms. The proposal provided the full suite of professional services required for the feasibility study.

“In full disclosure and transparency, the firm which had considerable technical expertise and capability, was invited to make a presentation to a multi-stakeholder group including representatives from MPI, Ministry of Finance and other agencies.

“That stakeholder group considered the presentation as being consistent with what is required for what is a complex technical matter and at a reasonable and competitive price which would deliver value for money.

“Having regard to the fact that this was an unsolicited proposal for a matter for which a suitable candidate was not found after a rigorous and lengthy tender process and there being no established procurement rules for dealing with unsolicited proposals, a Cabinet Paper was prepared on the matter on November 18, 2016 and submitted for Cabinet’s consideration.

“Cabinet considered the matter and, on November 22, 2016, took the decision to:

(i)  approve $103,978,580 being used from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation

     for funding of Stage 1.

(ii)  approve $57,535,740 being used from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation

      for the funding of Stage 2”.

MPI said that LievenseCSO was then engaged to conduct the feasibility study etc.

“MPI reiterates that lengthy procurement procedures were faithfully followed which did not yield suitable results. Having thereafter received a proposal which satisfied the government’s requirements for this project of national importance and given the relevant time constraints, it was felt that it was in Guyana’s interest to take advantage of the proposal. It is for this and other stated reasons that Cabinet’s approval was sought”, the statement said.

MPI said that several measures have had to be put in place to handle the large volume of traffic using the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) in an effort to reduce inconvenience to commuters. It noted that all traffic heading west on the DHB on weekday mornings is stopped to accommodate two lanes of traffic from the West Bank and West Coast Demerara and this is reversed in the afternoons.

“There is and has been an urgent need for a new bridge across the Demerara River and government is cognizant of this and has taken every decision, within the law, to ensure that the realization of a new bridge is not unduly delayed. The people of Guyana deserve nothing less.

“Despite the unfortunate and misguided campaign by the Opposition Leader, this Government remains committed to serving and improving the lives of the Guyanese people with utmost transparency and highest level of accountability”, MPI added.

The PPC in its ruling said the MPI did not place any advertisement for retendering the project, there was no evidence that any restricted procurement process was undertaken for the consultancy and there was no evidence in NPTAB’s records of a request made by the MPI to approve a single source award. 

The PPC said that examination of records relating to the tender and discussions with the relevant officials indicate that “the procurement procedure used to select LievenseCSO to execute the contract did not meet the requirements of any of the methods described in the Procurement Act.”

There is no procedure that defines how a procuring entity should deal with “unsolicited proposals” such as the one reportedly received from LievenseCSO, the PPC said.

While Cabinet has the right to review all procurements exceeding $15 million based on a streamlined tender evaluation report adopted by the NPTAB, the PPC said, there is no evidence that the report to Cabinet was prepared by NPTAB but submitted by the Minister of Public Infrastructure directly to Cabinet which was a breach of the Procurement Act.              

“The Procurement Act and Regulations make no provision for the Minister of Public Infrastructure to take a procurement request directly to Cabinet for approval of award of a contract,” the PPC said.   

Among its recommendations, the PPC said that officials engaged in public procurement at all levels “must ensure that they execute their functions in accordance with all provisions of the Procurement Act.

 

 

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