Saturday, March 6, 2021

Ministry of Education in P14 million tender scandal

The Ministry of Education is caught up in a 14 million tender scandal, which erupted after the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) cancelled the tender that the ministry had awarded to a company called TKM Engineering (Pty) Ltd.

The tender was cancelled following a complaint lodged by another bidder; J&T Decorators (Pty) Ltd. TKM Engineering (Pty) Ltd has since taken PPADB to court challenging its decision to cancel the tender. However, PPADB argues that the tender was rightfully cancelled as J&T Decorators (Pty) Ltd was unfairly disqualified. According to PPADB, its own investigations have revealed that the procuring entity, Department of Technical Services had recommended J&T Decorators for the tender at a contract amount of P14, 206, 146.88. However, the decision was overruled by the Ministerial Tender Committee, the final decision maker, which suspected some collusion among the bidders. After assessment of the evaluation report, the Ministerial Tender Committee suspected some collusion or knowledge of the cost estimate as three bidders had quoted 14.99 percent below the engineer’s estimate. The said bidders were J&T Decorators (Pty) Ltd (P14, 206, 146.88), Phangaftin Projects (Pty) Ltd (P14, 206, 211.60) and Graceland (Pty) Ltd (P14, 206, 395.67). 

Minutes of J&T Decorators (Pty) Ltd’s debriefing session show that the procuring entity had no problem with its bid, as the decision to disqualify it was taken by the Ministerial Tender Committee. It appears the exact reasons for disqualification were never disclosed to J&T Decorators (Pty) Ltd. The minutes of the de-briefing meeting also indicated that the procuring entity and the Ministerial Tender Committee had different views on the awarding of the tender. 

After investigations, PPADB came to the conclusion that J&T Decorators (Pty) Ltd was unfairly disqualified since it was responsive in all the three stages of evaluation and it offered the lowest evaluated price. PPADB also found that the Invitation to Tender (ITT) was flawed as it invited bidders registered with PPADB under grade D and E, which used inapplicable financial evaluation criteria. Consequently, the tender could not be awarded based on the flawed ITT. PPADB thereafter resolved to cancel the tender and instructed that a new tender must be floated due to the flawed ITT.

At the time PPADB resolved to cancel the tender, it was informed by the procuring entity that an offer had been made to TKM Engineering and that the company had not yet communicated its acceptance of the offer. 

In papers filed before court, PPADB insisted that the recommendation for the board to cancel the tender was a decision taken internally through the appropriate structures whose mandate was to analyze and provide technical advice to the board to enable it to make informed decisions. On the other hand, TKM Engineering argued that it met the evaluation criteria as it was found to be responsive was therefore recommended. TKM Engineering further said it was awarded the tender by the final decision maker, the Ministerial Tender Committee and pled with the courts to rule that the contract between TKM Engineering and the Ministry of Education had not been cancelled.

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