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WASA board cancels $70m contract
The award of a $70 million Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) contract has been scrapped after it was discovered that attempts were being made to rig the selection process. The contract was for the maintenance of water treatment plants at Caroni, North Oropouche, Navet and Arena pumping station. The contract in question is WTC 179/2011. The job invited interested companies to tender for the maintenance of the plants.
TOSL tops evaluation process but...
The bid document, which was obtained by the T&T Guardian, required tenderers to submit online proposals to be evaluated through what is known as an analytic hierarchy process. This used computer software designed to ensure that bids meet the stipulated criteria for the job. Results are then automatically tabulated to select the company to undertake the contract. Four companies expressed interest in the newspaper ad and in April submitted online proposals.
On the basis of the pre-qualifying process, two companies—TOSL Engineering Ltd and Super Industrial Services (SIS)—were shortlisted for the job. Investigations revealed TOSL submitted a bid of $65,311,338.25 and SIS of $69,027,089.45.
Documents showed WASA officials had estimated the job to cost $70 million. The companies were evaluated in the following categories:
• Machine shop (20 per cent)
• Equipment listing (30 per cent)
• Staff (15 per cent)
• Work programme for preventative and corrective maintenance (20 per cent)
• Price (ten per cent)
On the basis of the evaluation, TOSL was awarded 54.99 per cent and SIS 45.01 per cent. A draft of the evaluation report obtained by the T&T Guardian showed TOSL topped SIS in each category to be selected as the preferred contractor for the job. In its recommendations the evaluation committee stated: “After thorough review and consideration of the bids the selection team recommends the award of a contract to TOSL Engineering Ltd at a price of $65,311,338.25 VAT exclusive.”
Second evaluation team selects SIS
However, investigations reveal that on August 3, just hours before the report was expected to be signed by the evaluation team, a directive was given for the report to be scrapped and for a new evaluation team to be set up. The question of who gave the directive remains unanswered. But the T&T Guardian understands that the reason given as to why a second evaluation was necessary was a decision to include additional members in the evaluation team.
Documents show that approval was granted in July for the additional members to join the evaluation team the day after the evaluation of the bids had already started. However, a second evaluation team was set up and this time SIS was chosen for the job. Recommendations were made for a contract to be awarded to SIS in the amount of $69,027,089.45 VAT exclusive.
Earlier this year, SIS was awarded the $60 million contract for construction of the west side of the Couva/Preysal Interchange. The evaluation report was then forwarded to the board for approval. No reference was made to the report submitted by the first evaluation committee. However, concerns were raised after it was discovered that the selection process used by the second evaluation team had not been done using the computerised system.
A source explained: “What happened is that instead of the scores being tallied by the system, they were calculated using the normal process. The implementation of the computerised system was to eliminate the concerns of any bidder. “When something like this happens it defeats the entire purpose.” The matter, the source said, was immediately brought to the attention of WASA’s CEO Dion Abdool and instructions were given not to issue the letter awarding the job.
Site visit planned without letter of award
But further investigation revealed that even before the letter of award was set to be issued for the job, a site visit had been scheduled for last weekend. “A letter of award did not go out, based on instructions,” said the source. “So why was a site visit planned? No company was officially informed that they had won the bid.” The T&T Guardian learned that on September 13, TOSL executives wrote to the chairman of WASA, Indar Maharaj, expressing concern over the development.
The letter said: “The company responded to the tender and it has been reliably confirmed by the WASA’s selection team report that TOSL placed first in all categories. We were left in shock when informed otherwise.” Chairman admits evaluation process compromised Contacted yesterday, Maharaj confirmed that the award of the maintenance contract had been cancelled. Maharaj said the board took that decision after it was brought to its attention that confidential information surrounding the evaluation process was relayed to external parties.
Asked whether TOSL had topped the first evaluation, Maharaj said: “I do not have all the specifics. What appeared is that one of the tenderers clearly had contact with the evaluation team and was able to indicate to me that he was in possession of information from the evaluation process. “What happened should not have happened. It has compromised the entire process.
“On that basis the board held a meeting and reviewed the facts presented. When there is a breach of confidentiality in the evaluation process, we must go back out to tender.” Asked to explain why the evaluation report of the first team was rejected, Maharaj said, “We did not, as a board, sit down to review all the specifics. We looked at the process and recognised that something was wrong.”
CEO: We have to maintain fairness and transparency
WASA CEO Dion Abdool would not say if he believed the process had been rigged, but insisted that it was vital that transparency is maintained with regard to the process. “Based on inquiries made, I have had cause to review the evaluation process. In the interest of fairness and transparency I have recommended that tender be re-invited under a new process, with a new scope of works,” Abdool said.
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