May 07, 2017 News
-Minister’s action questioned
A multi-million-dollar contract for water meters of the Guyana Water Inc. (GWI) is raising
questions about the oversight role of a minister.
The matter to be reported to the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) was recently the subject of a Cabinet discussion.
A number of Government officials disclosed last week that GWI had gone to tender for a number of contracts, including water meters and some parts.
The tenders for the meters were opened, evaluated and a recommendation was made for a contractor to be awarded.
However, Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, whose portfolio includes GWI, wanted to satisfy himself about the accuracy of the recommendations for the award of the contract.
The matter was later taken to Cabinet.
GWI’s officials questioned the authority of Bulkan himself to investigate the contract.
There were also questions about Bulkan’s authority for even asking GWI’s Procurement Department for back up documents to determine how the evaluation system was done.
It was contended that GWI, although falling under the Ministry of Communities, does not have to answer directly to the ministry.
The minister was said to also be investigating a number of other GWI contracts.
Contacted over the weekend, Bulkan explained that as minister with responsibilities for water, he was given a number of tender documents to take to Cabinet.
While declining to name any contractor or give details of amounts, Bulkan indicated that he did request Cabinet’s Sub-Committee to further examine the tenders to verify the recommendations for award of the contracts.
He said that he considered this as necessary given that many lower bidders were deemed to be non-responsive and thereby disqualified.
There is nothing wrong with this except that several discrepancies were noted which raised questions over the evaluation process.
Reportedly, the minister’s concerns were raised where in one case of five bidders, the four
lowest were deemed non-responsive and the recommendation was for award of the contract to the highest bidder. In the case of the five bidders mentioned, the recommendation for the award of a contract that was almost three times the lowest bidder, Kaieteur News was told.
The minister vehemently denied acting improperly and said that his examination of the tenders suggested the need for further investigation prior to endorsing the recommendation for award of the contracts to the Cabinet.
Contacted yesterday, GWI’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Richard Van West Charles, said that he is unaware of what the minister is referring to, with respect to a procurement process that had been sent to the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
“As far as I am aware, all the procedures set out were followed with the technical and Evaluation Committee completing their work and sending it off to NPTAB.”
The CEO asked Kaieteur News to write him if the newspaper wanted more clarification and that he will respond promptly.
This is not the first time that a contract for water meters has attracted scrutiny; a forensic audit on that state-owned entity for the period January 2012 to May 2015 found that the contractor, Florida-based UTECO, was likely sole-sourced. The company was awarded a contract to the value of US$796,156 ($165M) – this was for the procurement of 28,485 water meters.
There were many problems with this contract; the findings suggest that there was irregular intervention from within GWI to tip it in favor of a particular contractor.
As of now, GWI does not have a Board of Directors, with the previous Chairman, Nigel Hinds, resigning last year after clashing with the Chief Executive Officer.
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