Independent Review Body orders a re-tender of the works

The submission of bids for the third tender to construct the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Mother and Child hospital has been extended by two weeks.

This is following the pre-bid meeting held on May 16. The chief engineer of health infrastructure and development division (HIDD), who did not want to be named, said that some amendments had to be made in the bidding documents after taking into account concerns raised by the contractors.

The first tender was cancelled after the government could not arrange funds for the project.

Kuensel learnt that initially the hospital’s construction was one project. But due to sheer size of the project and the government’s urgency to complete the structure within the 11th Plan and its tenure, it was separated into two packages. The budgetary bodies construed the two packages as separate projects and withheld the fund for package II, leading to the cancellation of the tender. Later, it was communicated that both the components are for one project and a second tender was floated.

Package I involves the construction of community health building and site development and is nearing completion with 85 percent progress achieved to date. The project team is trying to complete the structure by next month.

On March 14, works for package II worth Nu 1 billion, which is the construction of Obstetrics and Pediatrics Building (OPB), was awarded to a contractor after the re-tender. However, few contractors raised issues related to the evaluation process and appealed to the independent review body (IRB), which asked the ministry to cancel the contract and go for yet another re-tender.

The IRB is the highest review body to examine if the bidding and evaluation processes are in compliance with laws and rules. It can order the termination of the procurement procedure if rules have been violated. However, the scope of review is limited to procurement decisions up to the award stage. If the facts on review disclose a potential issue of corruption, the IRB can refer the case to the Anti-Corruption Commission immediately.

Druk Chapchap Private limited was awarded zero score on its human resource despite submitting all the documents. The HIDD reasoned that two of its employees were already employed by other agencies while the CV of the rest were inadequate. The team leader of the project said that it was clearly outlined in the pre-bid meeting that a detailed CV was required.

The IRB’s decision stated that there are some details in the CV of the other employees and that the IRB does not agree with the award of zero.

In his appeal letter, the CEO of Druk Chapchap, Sonam Tobgay said that the evaluation team has been unfair and seemed not to have followed the normal procedures of awarding points as per the procurement rules. The IRB said that it is beyond its scope to examine this allegation but ruled out cases of prima facie.

The IRB’s response to Druk Chapchap also stated that the evaluation committee did not comply with the clauses of the standard bidding document, which requires the procuring agency to seek concurrence of the bidder for correction in the bill of quantities (BoQ). Arithmetic correction in BoQ is permitted upon bidder’s concurrence.

“In line with the above and taking into account the findings of the IRB on other cases submitted for the same tender, IRB decides to terminate the procurement and orders for re-tendering,” the IRB’s review report on Druk Chapchap’s allegations stated.

The same reasons are cited in the IRB’s decision regarding the appeal submitted by T. KunzOm Construction, who happens to be the lowest bidder.

The contractor was awarded zero for access to equipment for failing to produce tax invoice of steel props. The IRB found that this was not in line with the evaluation method.

However, the IRB also stated that the evaluation committee has correctly evaluated and awarded scores on access to manpower. The company has not deposited the TDS for few of its employees for three months.

The IRB’s decision is final and binding. Should the parties be unsatisfied with the decision, an appeal can be made to the court.

HIDD clarifies

The team leader of the project, Gyembo said that nothing has been overlooked in the evaluation process. The fact that this is one of the largest projects in the health sector, he said the committee have been extra cautious and tried to be more transparent.

“We understand that a slight error could impact a very important and huge project,” he said. “Even if a separate body conducted the evaluation the result would be the same.”

Sources told Kuensel that an addendum to the minutes of the pre-bid meeting was issued a day prior to the submission of the bid. This mandates the contractors to produce tax invoice for the equipment such as steel props, which are used to hold the shape of the concrete.

One of the contractors said that it was difficult to arrange tax invoice in a day. He said he bought the steel props from another contractor. Since the seller has brought the equipment few years ago, tax invoice could not be traced. “But the evaluators could have checked with revenue and customs. We don’t need to pay taxes to another Bhutanese individual. This is illogical,” he said.

However, the project leader said that dishonest practice on the contractor’s part over time has taught them to be stringent. “ It is through such experience that we are made to be cautious,” he said. For instance, he said contractors usually produce a lease agreement or phony bill to get contracts. The tax invoice, he said, is the only document to prove the legitimacy.

Such practices on the part of contractor not only affect the project at hand but also other projects. “We tried to solve this issue,” the project leader, Gyembo said.

He said that the changes in the minutes of pre-bid meeting are not issued as addendum but a missing point in the minutes that are already discussed in the pre-bid meeting.

Addendum can be only issued on the bidding document and has to be done 14 days prior to the submission of bid.

The chief engineer of HIDD said that when the requirement of steel props is 4,000 square meters, even if contractors reveal 3,999 square meters, the score should be zero because the benchmark is not met.

He said the evaluation committee has done a thorough review of the documents submitted by the bidders. He said few bidders bidding for a project of such a huge magnitude do not even know how to submit documents, often being careless and submitting lose sheets.

“We were just trying to streamline the evaluation process and conduct it in a free and fair manner because we cannot take chance in this project,” he said.

The evaluation committee only has the authority to review the documents and punch the data into the system. The final result generation, which is done on the software, is done in the presence of another higher committee.

The chief engineer however said that the decision of IRB is final and binding and the HIDD respects the decision. The project would now spillover to the 12th Plan.

Tshering Dorji