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Imbert on wastewater treatment plant: Faulty bidding process
Opposition MP Colm Imbert is claiming the biding process in the award of a $1.6 billion National Gas Company (NGC) contract to construct a wastewater treatment plant at Beetham was not properly followed. Speaking at a news conference at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Charles Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, Imbert said the contract was based on a questionable process. Imbert said his conclusion was based on documents produced by the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation and other agencies. Imbert said bid-rigging was very likely when a low weight was given to bid price and the weight for price in this case was 30 per cent. “So whenever you see a tender evaluation method where a very low weighting is given to price, that is a warning sign,” Imbert said, adding that it would lead to serious potential for manipulation. The process used was discredited more than ten years ago and was ripe for manipulation, he said.
Imbert said Sport Minister Anil Roberts told Parliament recently the figure did not include the transmitting pipelines but his claim was untrue. He accused Roberts of misleading the Parliament and insisted the document referred to the transmission pipelines. Imbert also said Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine did not speak the truth when he told Parliament the estimated cost of the project was $150 million, as the report gave it as $101,450 million. That information “debunked” the Government’s claim that the lowest bidder was rejected because its price was ridiculously low, Imbert claimed. The lowest bid price was $95 million and the SIS bid was $165 million.
He said somebody must be playing games when a bidder would have been rejected because his bid for a $101 million project was $95 million. “There is absolutely no justification by the Government to disqualify the lowest bidder on the grounds that its price was too low,” Imbert maintained. He also dismissed a claim by Roberts that the cost of water from the proposed plant would be US56 cents a cubic metre. Based on his own calculations, Imbert said, the actual cost a cubic metre would be US$1.34. “So Mr Roberts’ cost of 50 cents is bogus. It is $1.34. His allegation that the WASA estimates did not include the pipeline is bogus,” Imbert said, calling for the Integrity Commission, the Audit Division, Ministry of Finance and the Economy to investigate the project.
Imbert said it would have been more economical for Desalcott to increase production as the cost of desalinated water was less than $1. Imbert also said the Beetham project was rejected under the former PNM Government because of the cost factor and the preferred option of the former government was to construct a new power station next to the wastewater plant at Beetham. He explained that the PowerGen plant on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, was operating with old equipment. That option, he argued, would eliminate the need to construct any pipeline and would reduce expenditure on the project significantly. He said the project was not needed and the truth was not being told by the Government on the method used for the bid evaluation. PNM PRO Faris Al-Rawi said the Opposition had written to President Anthony Carmona asking him to get answers from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the contract award and the party was also seeking to initiate legal action to stop the project.