Oct 19, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has highlighted the trend of evaluators bypassing the lowest bidders on projects.
The issue came up during a discussion of the committee yesterday about contracts awarded by the regional administration of Region 10 (Upper Demerara–Berbice) in 2016.
According to the finding outlined in the Auditor General’s 2016 report, the regional Tender Board had awarded 14 projects totalling $38.5 million, but none were to the lowest or most responsive bidder.
In some instances in the report, the contracts were awarded to the highest of three bidders but there was no explanation as to why the lowest bidders were sidestepped. Although he was not the accounting officer in 2016, Regional Executive Officer (REO), Dwight John, was made to answer to a series of instances where the lowest bidders for contracts were sidestepped.
Minister of Public Works, and PAC member, Bishop Juan Edghill, raised his concerns over the issue. Edghill referenced sections of the Procurement Act which outline how contracts are awarded to the lowest or the most competitive bid.
“The Auditor General is saying it did not happen and in order for us to be able to verify justification of why it did not happen, the justification is not found in the minutes and the minutes did not state it and the fact that the minutes did not state it, it is left open…to still be judged,” he contended.
Region 10 Regional Executive Officer (REO), Orrin Gordon, was in the company of the regional staff and his predecessor, but they were unable to explain why the lowest bidders for contracts were bypassed and were clearly unprepared to answer questions leading to their expulsion from a previous PAC meeting.
Other committee members, Gail Teixeira and Ganesh Mahipaul, also raised similar contentions over the contract awards. While Teixeira called for an end to the tendency of evaluators to bypass the lowest bidders in the awarding of contracts, Mahipaul noted that the issue should be thoroughly investigated.
In the 2016 Auditor General report, instances of the lowest bidders being rejected by the Region 10 administration were put under the microscope by the Committee. It is understood that the Regional Tender Board allegedly refused to award millions of dollars in contracts to neither the lowest nor competitive bidders.
During a previous hearing before the PAC, former Region 10 REO, Gavin Clarke, had claimed that the other companies were bypassed because they performed poorly on their evaluations.
However this did not bring much clarity to the issue, as the then committee member, Volda Lawrence, was trying to ascertain exactly on what grounds the other companies were marked down. But despite repeated requests for specifics, Clarke continued to give general responses.
“The fifth lowest bidder obtained 74 percent,” Clarke had related, but was promptly stopped by Lawrence who informed him that “percentages do not help us!”
“The reasoning, what were the factors in the evaluation score? What were the criteria?” she had queried.
The committee member even went as far as to outline examples of criteria to Clarke, such as National Insurance Scheme (NIS) compliance and experience, but to little avail. This prompted the questions as to whether attempts were being made to mislead the Committee.
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