A long-serving official of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) has been sent on additional leave as police continue their probe into an alleged incident of bid tampering.
This happened last Monday.
Later in the week, at least two staffers of the NPTAB were asked to visit the police headquarters at Eve Leary where they were questioned about what they knew.
The police also called in the Procurement Officer, who has been years with NPTAB and who is at the center of the probe, for questioning. He reportedly came with his lawyer.
The matter of the bid tampering for the tender, from the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, has caused it to be pulled back.
The matter had dragged in the Finance Ministry, raising questions about how extensive the wrongdoings were.
The Public Procurement Commission (PPC) was unaware of the tampering until it was reported by Kaieteur News.
The Commission, which is the body to investigate wrongdoings in the handling of state contracts, had written the NPTAB asking it also to explain why they were not apprised earlier that there was a problem.
NPTAB acts as a sort of clearing house for accepting bids from ministries and state agencies, processing and recording them.
Over time, the NPTAB has been accused of wrongdoings, including collusion with contractors.
Two Fridays ago, sources said, the PPC met with senior NPTAB officials.
Until now, the NPTAB has not issued an official statement.
In fact, it was only when approached that Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, disclosed that a report has been completed with the matter being addressed by the Finance Secretary, Michael Joseph.
Jordan admitted that “some irregular activities” occurred.
Asked about whether he is worried about the breaches after the Coalition Government had vowed to clean up things at the Tender Board, on being voted in May 2015, Jordan was clear.
“You will always be worried. As we said, no system is fool proof but luckily we had a system here that actually caught some irregular activities.”
He said that there is evidence that some “irregular activities” happened at “irregular times”.
It was reported that a Senior Procurement Officer of NPTAB, who has been there for years, was sent on administrative leave almost five weeks ago.
This was after he was reportedly caught on camera taking bid documents from a secured room at NPTAB.
It was reported that NPTAB, which oversees the opening of bid documents from contractors and suppliers, processed a number of them.
The documents were then stored in a special room. Copies were reportedly also in the custody of a senior manager.
Hours later, the staffer asked permission to enter the room, something that is unusual.
Rather, under the control system, the officer should have requested documents and sign for them.
He reportedly stashed the documents in his pockets and later left the NPTAB compound without returning it.
According to officials, an internal probe found that two tender documents were raised by $15M.
However, the attempt to tamper was discovered after a staffer talked and checks revealed that a copy of the bid document in the custody of the senior manager did not have the new figures.
The contract, a road project, was said to worth over $100M.
Sources have been raising serious questions about operations at the Tender Board.
While reporters and representatives of the contractors, ministries and state agencies are present when bids are opened, that is not where the wrongdoings are happening.
According to sources, there are a number of other persons.
“There are figures being changed. Everybody from ministry officials to Tender Board officials know what is happening behind the scenes. It involves millions of tax dollars. You want to know how bad it is, check where they live and what they drive,” one source explained.
It was said that last year, the same staffer was caught on tape asking a contractor for money, but the matter went dead.
“There was another matter involving a huge drug supply from a foreign supplier in the US. The media covered this. The NPTAB never addressed this matter fully. This is a matter for the Minister of Finance to address and launch an investigation. Nothing much has changed from old Tender Board. It is the same old hustling.”
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