While the government spends over 60 to 70 percent of its budget on the procurement of works, goods and services, the present procurement process, according to the director of works and human settlement ministry’s Directorate Services, Dhak Tshering, has many pitfalls.

Presenting during the eight engineers, architects and planners conference yesterday, he said that the common pitfalls of present procurement process are poorly delivered contracts, cost and time overruns, quality compromise rescindment of contracts and wastage of public resources.

He said that ‘copy paste’ system is rampant where officials copy and paste everything, up to the extent that name of work is also not changed.

He said that there is lack of seriousness in the preparation of bidding documents with lots of redundancies and no clarity. “We still use sample bidding document and bidding documents are seldom read.”

He highlighted that although the introduction of the e-tool system has enhanced the objectivity and transparency of procurement process, he questioned if the objectives are met since it does not leave room for evaluators to make collective judgment in awarding points against mandatory requirements except the designated figure.

He cited that technical and financial competency of a bidder is judged by giving 10 points for work experience, 10 points for bid capacity, 10 points for average performance score, 20 points for credit available, 25 points for the availability of manpower and 25 percent for access to equipment.

He said that most bidders currently secure the required 65 points through the credit line, availability of manpower, access to equipment and average performance score. “Most contractors score about 80 points but most contractors score 20 points for equipment irrespective of whether they own or hire it.”

Dhak Tshering said that the present bid capacity favours inexperienced contractors who quote low and face contractual problems. “The credit line facility purpose is defeated since contractors obtain a letter of support from financial institutes but most contractors depend on the client for the fund.”

He said the advanced payment, which is actually paid to mobilise the equipment, is misused. “Many contractors go missing after taking the mobilisation advance and switch off the phone.”

The director suggested increasing 30 points for bid capacity, as it is contractor’s financial and technical competency. “We have to do away with the credit line since it is not serving the intended purpose.”

He also recommended special conditions tailored for each contract and decrease mobilisation advance to five percent, payable in two instalments.

About 120 engineers, planners, architects and contractors, consultants and relevant officials attended the eighth engineering conference.

Works and Human Settlement minister, Dorji Choden, said the government appropriation reveals that about 60 percent of the total outlay is allocated for procurement out of which 80 percent accounts for procurement of construction works, both at central and local level.

She said the ministry, especially the Department of Roads (DoR) is executing the widening of east-west highway and gewog centre roads amounting to about Nu 10B.

The minister said that the theme of the conference, “Enhancing sustainability of infrastructure’ is aimed at the sustainability of the existing infrastructure assets, like the road, water supply and the urban infrastructure. “We have invested lots of grants and took a huge loan to build those infrastructures. We need to protect it.”

She said that physical infrastructure is central to country’s social and economic development. “As planners, architects, engineers, consultants, contractors, supervisors, we have to promote shared understanding towards creating a sustainable human settlement and infrastructure development across agencies, dzongkhags, thromdes and the private sector.”

She said that it is important to derive implementable recommendation that will serve as input to policy and legal discourses towards preparation of the 12th Plan programmes and projects and specific recommendation to professionalise the sector and improvement systems. “There will never be an end to infrastructure needs, old will be maintained and there will be increasing demand for new and better infrastructure.”

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said that in the 11th Plan, about 17 percent, about Nu 33B of the total outlay of Nu 213B is allocated for infrastructure development under the ministry.

She said the construction sector today has given rise to the establishment of 3,866 contractors, contributes to 16.86 percent of the gross domestic product and employs 3.2 percent of the labour force.

The participants discussed on the specialisation of contractors and consultants, and the professionalisation of engineers and architects.

There are 73 registered consulting firms and 148 architects working in the civil service and private sector.

Tashi Dema