Oct 09, 2016 News
Tender documents from Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for the May 11, 2015 polls continue to show a total disregard when it comes to managing taxpayers’ dollars.
The payments of millions of dollars in inventory and services have a pattern of not only collusion within GECOM but with contractors too.
According to one set of tender documents, dated February 18, 2015, GECOM wrote the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) asking for approval to purchase stationery.
Not only does the price appear to be highly inflated but the actual tender documents are highly questionable.
In the first instance, GECOM in its letter to NPTAB, sought approval for “stationery” to be used in various departments to ensure work in done in a “timely manner”.
There was no explanation of what stationery meant. However, additional documents said that the stationery was photo paper. The photo paper is essential for GECOM registration workers who carry a mobile photo printer around when visiting homes.
GECOM said that it received quotations from a number of “reputable suppliers”. The quotations include from Supply Depot, for $9.1M; Computers and Controls Limited for $5.24M and M-Tech Business Solutions for $13.91M.
GECOM insisted that it wanted the “stationery” within three days but both Supply Depot and Computer and Controls were unable to make the delivery in time.
The only business that could make it happen was M-Tech Business Solutions, the highest bidder.
It was unclear why GECOM wanted the photo paper in three days.
What was even stranger in the case of the quotations from Supply Depot and Computer and Controls Limited was that they were almost the same.
Supply Depot, which gave an address of 300 Meadowbrook Gardens, said it could supply 80 units of Canon Selphy Printer CP 910 for $3,920,000; 77 units of Canon PowerShot Elph-150 IS 20 megapixel for a total $4,004,000 and 80 units of Canon Photo paper and Ink Kit for $1,192,000. The total amount of that quote was for $9,116,000.
The quote from Computers and Controls Limited was remarkably the same – 80 Canon Selphy Printer for $4M; 77 Canon Powershot A590- NA and 80 Canon photo paper KP108 for $1,240,000. The total was for $5,240,000.
The winning tender, of course, was M-Tech Business Solutions.
That Water Street business, owned by Michael Brasse, quoted for 30 cases of what it said is Canon Print Kit.
How M-Tech knew that GECOM wanted that specific brand of photo paper is unclear
with each case containing 20 kits, M-Tech said that price including VAT as $13,916,520.
Although the letter to NPTAB is signed by Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, there are indications that actual groundwork for collecting the quotes was carried out by other staffers within GECOM’s Secretariat.
In addition, GECOM strangely wanted the ink within three days. It would be questionable also why Laparkan Office Supplies was not approached for the photo paper.
Laparkan is the local authorised dealer for Canon products.
Online, the photo paper is retailing for US$28.50 ($6500) for a small box. With 20 in a case, as indicated by GECOM, using an $8,000 price, the photo paper could have been acquired for $4.8M. Even using the base price of $10,000, the cost would have been $6M.
Then again, the prices quoted are retail.
This transaction is similar to several others by GECOM last year. Several weeks ago, the Audit Office of Guyana launched a major probe into a $100M contract for communications radios.
The radios barely made it in time for elections but from all indications were never deployed.
The radios appeared to be in poor condition. Queries were raised over whether they were even working.
From evidence, a fake quotation purportedly from Massy Technologies was slipped in for the radio tender. Massy recently said it can find no evidence that it submitted any quotes for the radios last year.
GECOM bypassed the local dealer for the Barrett radios when it decided to recommend Mobile Authority, another business owned by Brasse, for the contract.
Another set of contracts being perused by auditors were for the supply of Duracell ‘D’ batteries for $29,061,480.
From details of the tender documents submitted by GECOM, not only did the entity accept two quotes from Mobile Authority and Standard Distributors, it also received one from a business named A1 Imports, which is listed to a Robb Street address linked to Brasse.
Brasse’s brother, Mahendra, owns Standard Distributors, a King Street business.
A 1 Imports, which supplied a quote, has an address listed as 44 Robb Street in its quote which said it would charge $1,116 for an original Duracell Coppertop D Side Alkaline battery to be imported from the US.
A1 Imports’ contact person on the quote was listed as one Y.A. Hussain. According to information at the Registry, A1 Imports is registered to an address in Grove, East Bank Demerara.
In the GTT telephone directory, that Robb Street address is the same one as Mibra Trading, another business registered to Brasse.
Under procurement regulations, some state institutions are allowed to collect three quotes from separate businesses to ensure transparency for contracts.
GECOM has authorisation to issue contracts below $250,000. Above that, the contract has to be approved by NPTAB.
Above $15M has to be approved by both NPTAB and the Cabinet.
In all the scenarios, GECOM is the one that recommends which business gets the contracts.
GECOM, currently under a major probe by state auditors, would be hard pressed to explain how it allowed two brothers, and a third business that is closely linked to one of them, to submit quotes.
There is growing anger over what appeared to be major procurement contract breaches by GECOM for last year’s elections. A number of businesses have been complaining of being used to supply quotes but sidelined.
The Brasses received over 40 percent of $700M-plus contracts that were awarded through GECOM last year.
With regards to the Duracell batteries orders, in the first application to the NPTAB on April 17, 2015, GECOM recommended in a covering letter that Mobile Authority be granted a contract for $14,532,480. The NPTAB approval was for $14,529,000.
GECOM argued that the 14,500 batteries were critical to providing alternative “energy supply” to ensure a smooth polling day process.
Mobile Authority quoted $999 for one of the batteries; Standard Distributors $1,155 while A1 Imports said that it will sell one for $1,116.
The NPTAB approval was granted on April 23.
GECOM waited two more weeks, on May 6, 2015 (or five days before elections) to apply for another order of 14,500 batteries of similar specifications.
From indications GECOM did not need all those 29,000 batteries, assuming that all were delivered.
There were other contracts too like the supply of toners, stationery, office furniture and equipment in which evidence were seen that the Brasse brothers were highly favored.
From indications, state auditors have expanded its probe from the radio purchases to now other areas.
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