JCC to Government –Stop procrastinating on Office of Procurement Regulator

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TSTT House, Port of Spain. File photo

THE Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC) has responded to the alleged tender glitch for Udecott’s e-tendering submissions for the Port of Spain General Hospital Central Block project.

In a statement on the tender glitch, JCC president Fazir Khan called on the Government to “stop procrastinating” and fully operationalise the Office of the Procurement Regulator.

He said this would result in “independent oversight of the tender process” for special-purpose companies, “spending public money.”

“ As it stands, the public is still waiting on the Attorney General to take a note to Cabinet to have the public procurement and disposal of public property Regulations take lawful effect.”

“The AG would say that he is waiting on the Finance Minister to allocate funds for resourcing procurement officers. Minister Imbert, however, now tells the public that he is waiting on the AG. “The Prime Minister remains complicity silent. So the emperors continue to fiddle while Rome burns, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill,” the JCC’s statement said.

On Sunday, the tender-glitch was reported in the Sunday Guardian. The same day, UNC MP Dr Roodal Moonilal called for an immediate investigation, suggesting there was likely improper conduct of procurement.

In a statement on Monday, Udecott said explained what took place, maintaining there were n amendments to submissions.

It said a request for proposals for the hospital block redevelopment project was issued via e-tender on April 19 to five companies: Yorke Structures Ltd, Steel Structures Ltd, Universal Structures Ltd, Metal-X Engineering Ltd, and Francis-Lau Construction Ltd.

Metal-X and Francis-Lau Construction said they did not intend to submit a proposal and the e-tender closed on May 20 at 4 pm, “at which time, no further tender submissions or modifications could be or were submitted.”

Udecott said at 4.05 pm on May 20, the e-tender box was opened and the online e-tender register, at the time, showed two successful tender submissions from Yorke Structures and Steel Steel Structures.

The company said, checks of the e-tender server logs recorded three receipts, confirming there were three tender submissions. The logs showed the submissions were loaded at 11.47 am by Yorke Structures; 12.16 pm by Universal Structures and 2.14 pm by Steel Structures; all on May 20.

Udecott said it immediately contacted the owner and manager of the e-tender software, TSTT, to explain the discrepancy.

It said at 6.13 pm, TSTT confirmed that Udecott’s e-tender server logs were correct and there were three tender submissions received.

Udecott also said TSTT was asked to provide a written explanation.

On May 23, Udecott said meetings were held with all three companies as part of the tender evaluation process and the issues relating to the e-tender process were explained to them, and no queries were raised.

Four days later, Udecott said it received TSTT’s written explanation which said the telecoms company “directly attributes this to a temporary disruption in internet connectivity during the upload process” which led to the online e-tender register initially showing two tender submissions as opposed to the three that were successfully uploaded on May 20.

“Udecott stands resolute that there were no amendments to submissions made by any of the three proponents (companies). The last submission was made at 2.24 pm on Friday, May 20, 2022, and there were no submissions or modifications to any submission thereafter.”

Udecott said it reaffirmed that its procurement process was “consistent with its core values of good governance and integrity and the management of the project will continue to be undertaken in a transparent and cost-effective manner.”

Udecott’s statement also included the written report provided by TSTT which also included recommendations for the company’s consideration, including having it notify TSTT when e-tenders are to open to confirm and validate the status and receipt of all bids with a “no upload” status. It also recommended implementing an “upload authentication” feature to mandate a repeat of the upload process if it was unsuccessful at the time of upload.