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Letter: CONFUSION IN THE PROCUREMENT PROCESS

Under the Laws of Guyana, Chapter 73:05 of the Constitution, abides the Procurement Act 2003 which outlines the regulation for the procurement of goods, services and the execution of works, to promote competition among suppliers and contractors and to promote fairness and transparency in the procurement process. However, although this Act is the guide on the procurement process, many shady, questionable occurrences have continued to breathe which manifests corruption.
As we have been in operation for 38 years, we have engaged many Governments Ministries, Institutions, Commissions and Agencies where tendering for security services was required. With the genesis of the long awaited Public Procurement Commission (PPC), the undersigned like most suppliers and Guyanese in general, expected some positive changes in the procurement process. Of recent, there are several inconsistencies, discrepancies and uncertainties that exist in the tendering system for security services. At face value, there is definitely confusion among the NPTAB, the Government procuring entities and other State Agencies where documents must be sourced for the tenders.

One case is the tender for the Ministry of Business which would have been annulled for a second time. There seems to be a disconnection with regards to the understanding of the license to operate a private security firm, the police certificate and the police certified security plan. It took our company weeks, going on to months to properly understand what the Police Certificate was and a police certified security plan, to our surprise, the police had no knowledge of the security plan and the Ministry of Business was using the license as the police certificate. This would have been dandy but this misunderstanding would have cost our company this security contract.

During the meeting at the Ministry of Business with reference to the non-responsiveness of bids from several private security companies the first issue was the reason given by the Ministry for the annulment of the tender process. The facial expressions and body language of all gathered instantly changed when the chair of the meeting outlined that the annulment of the tender was due to all bidders failing to provide a Police Certificate.

All representatives of the security firms were taken back by this most unjustifiable reason provided for the annulment of the tender.
As mentioned before, our longstanding company has never heard of this certificate being issued from the police, and by all accounts, neither did Ms. Sharon Alexander (Chair) nor Mr. Spencer. Strangely, they profusely argued that there were two or three companies that fulfilled this criterion although only one private security firm was absent. One can conclude that if all parties at a meeting express their bewilderment on a document, how then can two or three firms be compliant? Our company’s officers like other officers from various companies were livid and enraged since the tone and lack of justification was not adequate.

All present at this meeting contended that there was never a police certificate issued to private security companies but instead, a receipt for Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00) from the Officer of the Commissioner of Police which could be presented in ANY tender document. Imagine, even the treasurer of the Guyana Association of Private Security Organizations (GAPSO), Mr. Clyde Layne was baffled since he stated that no member of GAPSO had that police certificate.

Important to note, this issue is not exclusive to the Ministry of Business. In many tender documents distributed by Government bodies, pages are frequently omitted presumably inadvertently; blank pages are inserted for no clear reason, duplication of rate sheets, incorrect dates and incorrect information. In the security tender for the Ministry of Education (the case currently with the PPC), there were seventeen (17) mistakes which needed to be verified, all of which could have disqualified our company from the tendering process. When our company’s officers attended the meeting to discuss the tender, the matters were treated lightly when our company was facing disqualification if not answered. This issue surpasses errors in the tender document itself, and extends even to the due day when tenders are opened at the Ministry of Finance. All of which are confusing and questionable.

Opening of Tenders
It was observed that on several occasions, the representatives from the various Governmental organizations are absent and stall the already timely, slothful process of opening tenders according to the prepared list. This in turn creates havoc on the other tenders scheduled to be opened and the back and forth is not only mentally draining but unfair to the other companies tendering.

Copy and Pasting of Criteria
Our aim is not to embarrass any Minister or Ministry but to highlight the infractions, injustices and malpractices that are occurring in the procurement process. In our view, procurement officers at the various Government entities should take their time when preparing tender documents. The copying and pasting from other tender documents for cement, construction or catering services will not necessary fit into the tender document for security services. I advise for greater commitment and care when preparing these important tender documents. At many times, when our company attempts to contact the Permanent Secretary or the procurement officer from the Ministry tendering for security services, there is either no response or there is a lack of information presented, and the disinterest in providing assistance is quite obvious.

Cost
To the opinion of this writer, when retendering is done over and over, private security companies incur costs due many times to the negligence of the procuring entity. In addition to the cost factor to acquire the bid security which is an imperative component of the evaluation criteria (adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars) and then preparation and printing (binding). Additionally, there is the time factor as staffers work lengthy hours on its preparation to ensure all the criteria and requirements are fulfilled.

This writer believes that the Permanent Secretaries at the various Ministries should be briefed thoroughly before the tenders are advertised. Without doing this, the Permanent Secretary who is the Chief Accounting Officer can be held accountable. Further, it also brings embarrassment to the NPTAB, the ministry and the entire government.

As guidance, being in the tendering system for many years it would appear that since the new administration took power, the process has gotten worse. Being a professional, I have no personal political axe to grind but simply, to highlight the occurrences in public procurement.

Roshan Khan Sr.

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