IRB: The finance ministry has formed an independent review body (IRB) comprising seven members to review grievances from suppliers related to procurement.

A public notification to this effect was issued last month.

The IRB can order the termination of the procurement procedure if the procurement rules have been violated, according to the procurement rules. The public procurement policy division with the finance ministry will serve as the secretariat to the IRB.

However, the scope of review is limited to procurement decisions up to the award stage of procurement process. The IRB could also prohibit the procuring agency from practicing an unlawful procedure.

“If the facts disclose a potential issue of corruption upon review, the IRB should refer the case to the Anti-Corruption Commission immediately,” a finance ministry official said requesting anonymity.

The IRB members comprise the director general of the public accounts department, executive engineer of construction association of Bhutan and chief attorney among others.

According to the notification, any supplier or service provider who has suffered or is likely to suffer loss or injury resulting due to violation of procurement rules may initiate a review procedure based on the provisions in the relevant standard bidding documents issued by the finance ministry.

A review procedure should be brought promptly within the prescribed time in the relevant standard bidding documents. The procurement rules will apply if no specific provisions are provided in the bidding documents.

Meanwhile, with the formation of the IRB, the ministry has also amended some sections of the procurement rules and regulations to enhance procurement system.

An amendment states that an aggrieved supplier, contractor or service provider should summit a written complaint within 10 days of the letter of intent to award the contract.

The head of the procuring agency within seven days after submission of the complaint from the supplier, should issue a written decision stating the reasons for the decision. If the complaint is upheld in whole or in part, then the agency should indicate corrective measures to be taken.

If the procuring agency does not deliver a response or explanation against a complaint within the specified time, or the complainant is not satisfied with the decision, he or she should initiate a review procedure before the IRB.

The complainant shall bring a review procedure within five days of the decision of the head of the procuring agency. Where no such decision has been taken by the procuring agency, the case should be forwarded to the IRB within 15 days of the original complaint to the procuring agency.

The IRB may also order the suspension of the procurement procedure pending its final decision on the merits of the claim where the complainant demonstrates a prima facie case; such that it is more likely than not that he will succeed in his claim.

If the decision of the IRB is not acceptable then an appeal may be made to the court only on a “question of law”. In such a case, any concession granted by the review body shall stand withdrawn.

By MB Subba