Dec 14, 2015 News
– Govt. orders re-tender
Government has aborted a multi-million-dollar tender for thousands of prepaid meters and has ordered it to be retendered following some damning complaints against a high ranking official of the Guyana Power and Light Inc.
The instructions were handed down a month ago by Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, even before a number of alarming text messages came to light implicating Colin Welch, acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the state-owned power company.
Minister Patterson has also ordered a full report on the text messages purportedly sent by Welch to a British supplier and Chinese manufacturer. Welch in those texts, allegedly broke a number of procurement regulations when he engaged the two companies, promising to do a number of things to ensure they are awarded the delayed meter contract that is worth over US$4.2M ($840M).
Yesterday, Kaieteur News broke the story on the meter scandal. As a result of the meter shortage thousands of GPL customers have been left waiting for months for service.
The award of the contract to Tesco PLC in April ran into early trouble when one of the unsuccessful bidders complained that the assessment of the bids was flawed and that Tesco’s manufacturer of the meters, Shenzhen Clou Electronics Company Limited, was not making those types of meters that were being requested by GPL.
The purported text messages by Welch to the two foreign companies were leaked to Minister Patterson, GPL Directors and Managers, and Government officials weeks ago.
A statement from Government yesterday confirmed that the text messages were engaging the attention of Minister Patterson.
The report of those text messages will be one of the priorities of a new GPL Board of Directors, which is to be appointed shortly. The Board will be tasked with determining the future of acting CEO Colin Welch, with the power company, Minister Patterson told Kaieteur News yesterday.
Regarding Tesco’s award, the statement from the government explained that after Minister Patterson received complaints about the process from a bidder, he aborted the tender process for the prepaid meters and instructed, more than a month ago, that the process, which started under the PPP, be set aside and for the contract to be retendered.
“The main complainant (to the Minister) objected to the tendering process. Minister Patterson then instructed an independent review of the complaints. All of the main complaints relating to the tender process were found to be invalid. The new tendering procedures under a new team have been set in motion.”
The statement said that it was after the Minister’s instructions for a new process that the alleged text messages, as referred to in the Kaieteur News report yesterday, surfaced and “Minister Patterson is committed to looking into same.”
In early April, the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) closed the bids for the 28,000 prepaid meters with Tesco winning the contract and undertaking to supply.
Tesco was going to procure the meters out of China. It was buying from Shenzhen for GPL.
However, one of the unsuccessful bidders objected to the evaluation process.
According to GPL officials on Saturday, another objection raised had to do with the inspection of the meters. The 28,000 meters had to be certified by an internationally accepted lab before being shipped. There were questions over the certification documents presented.
The Tender Board, following up on the objection by the bidder, wrote both Tesco and Shenzhen, asking for clarifications.
It appeared that during the wait for answers, Welch somehow started communicating with both companies.
This is a big no-no as procurement regulations bar state officials from intervening while the tender is being handled by the tender board, to ensure transparency.
In the texts, Welch signaled his intentions to waive tests (inspections) telling the Chinese manufacturer- “We don’t need any other report; it’s ok. You already pass our test report…It is ok. I already pass all of our meters.”
During the exchange, the company also explained that it would be their first time producing 100amp meters.
Welch, however, persisted, suggesting that the company should lie.
“…They will call to verify but that is ok, just say the 100-amp meters will be specifically produced for GPL because what you’re making is 80 amps.”
The acting CEO, in the text messages, told the Chinese company that it must also lie that it has the 100 amps prepaid meters available in other countries as there would be questions from “someone on the Board”. A wrong answer could lead to disqualification, Welch implied.
“So let’s keep it simple and the way I explain, and I will approve the project in the morning,” he assured the manufacturer.
“We don’t need any other report; it’s ok. You already pass our test report…expecting to execute this tender in the morning…We have a board meeting at 9am. Well I must sleep now I am very tired.” (sic)
The messages indicated that Welch was set to travel to China to meet with Shenzhen Clou officials on the deal.
Welch has been under a cloud since being appointed as acting CEO in late August.
He is being accused of forging his credentials. He was elevated from Deputy CEO -Technical following the stormy dismissal of Bharat Dindyal on August 14.
In early August, Welch clashed with his former boss, Dindyal, at the GPL’s Sheriff Street offices after the latter overturned a decision to send home two senior staffers.
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