As the plot thickens with the ‘obsolete bulldozer’ saga more revelations and questions have emerged. However, in order to make the explanation offered here more comprehensible I will need to give some specifics.
For the year 2017, there was an RDC budgetary allocation of $20 million to purchase an ‘angle blade bulldozer’ for the urgent repairs of dams within the agricultural areas. But the ‘urgency’ was soon forgotten. Nearly, six months later on July 1st, 2017 an invitation to tender for ‘the supply and delivery of one reconditioned D3 angle blade bulldozer’ was made in the media. It stated that the Engineer’s estimate was at $15 million. The tenders received would be evaluated on 11th July, 2017 and the ‘lowest evaluated bid’ would be awarded the contract. This means that by 25th July this notice of award to the supplier would have been sent. Furthermore, it was expected that the contract would have been signed and the bulldozer delivered within a ‘reasonable time’. The bulldozer arrived at the RDC Region 6 compound on January 3rd, 2018, approximately 5 months after the supplier was awarded the contract.
Some pertinent questions need to be asked at this point: Why was the tender advertised at such a late date when the machinery was urgently needed, especially to repair the dams in the rice cultivation areas which were almost impassable? Why was the Engineer’s estimate just 1 million above the Regional Tender Board limit but remained at $15 million which avoided perusal by the Minister of Finance and Cabinet? Why was the entire budgetary allocation of $20 million not utilized to acquire a ‘fit and proper’ bulldozer? Why did it take the supplier 5 months to deliver? Was the delivery into the new calendar year accidental or coincidental?
I must submit that the delivery of the ‘junk’ in 2018 has the appearance of being intentional. There is a growing trend if we look at the RDC capital expenditure that the majority of such expenditures take place towards the latter half of the year with some being done at the last minute, just like Christmas shopping. In addition, all cheques are raised before the end of the year to ensure that monies are not returned to the Treasury. In this bulldozer case the cheque was raised at the end of the year and delivery done in January 2018. This masks the fact that the machine is not ‘fit and proper.’
Another pertinent question is: Did the bulldozer meet the specifications of being a ‘reconditioned D3 angle blade bulldozer’? The answer is a resounding, no! An investigation conducted by the Regional Chairman on 5th January by a team of engineers confirmed that it was a D4D bulldozer manufactured in the 1970s. It was further discovered that the bulldozer’s engine is back pressuring and it had about 10 other defects. The engineers pointed out that the machine is at the end of its useful life. Therefore, the bulldozer did not meet the specifications and it was not ‘fit and proper’.
At the RDC statutory meeting on 3rd January, 2018, one day after the machine was received, the REO having expressed her surprise that the bulldozer had arrived at the RDC Compound made a commitment to return the bulldozer back to the supplier if it was not according to the specification and if it was not ‘fit and proper’. However, at a press conference held on 8th January she did a volte face. She declared that the supplier had agreed to repair the bulldozer.
In conclusion, I must remind all government officials that the main objective of the Public Procurement Act is to ensure that economy and efficiency are maximized and that taxpayers get value for money. It is useless to brag about a massive budget when the dollars do not translate into value; the irregularities at the tender board level and the equally irregular inspections and certifications will continue to eat away at our social and economic development unless drastic measures are taken.