Monday, January 17, 2022

Restricted ear tags procurement tender raises eyebrows

The Restricted International Tendering (RIS) model opted for by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in the procurement of cattle digital ear tags is already raising eyebrows, with some market players alleging underhand deals aimed at leveraging a certain Swiss manufacturer, whose Namibian-based agent helped the Ministry in the preparation of the tender document (ITT).

Although the ministry is adamant that its Department of Veterinary Services (DPS) prepared the ITT, Sunday Standard is in possession of documents and information confirming the involvement of the Swiss company’s Namibia based agent. The name of the said company, which is understood to be among the shortlisted companies, is also known to this publication.

Responding to Sunday Standard enquiries on the envisaged procurement, the ministry’s Chief Agricultural Information and Public Relations Officer, Boikhutso Rabasha, confirmed the adoption of the RIS procedure model while denying that the ITT preparation was outsourced.

The ministry is understood to be under pressure to implement the ear tagging project in the first quarter of next year, following premature announcement by President Ian Khama during kgotla meetings in the Central District at the beginning of the year.

Asked whether the ministry had already floated an open tender for the procurement of the ear tags in order to meet the intended 2013 implementation deadline, Rabasha said the ministry at initiation stage focused on starting the use of the ear tagging beginning of next year and that remained its target.

Government has, however, realized that for the farmers to start tagging their cattle, they will have to recognize previously bolused cattle in relation to the current bolus identification and cattle traceability system that is in place.

She explained that the bolus and digital ear tag cannot be used on the same animal and, therefore, for phase one of the project, the government at its own expense will tag all bolused cattle with a non-electronic visual ear tags as a transition to double tagging.

On whether the ministry had already floated the tender and secured PPADB approval, Rabasha said “like all government procurement processes, there are procedures to follow in the procurement as laid down by PPADB”.

“The ministry had to consider options available that would support the short period available before the tagging starting date, with advise from the regulating entity the ministry opted for the Restricted International Tendering procedure, this will ensure that government can control the time, since a tender does not have to float for 90 days or more; government will deal directly with the manufacturer both as cost cutting measure and for product support”.

The ministry spokesperson was, however, not in a position to reveal the budget and quantities required for the project save to say the project was initiated in the middle of the financial year and “therefore it does not have any funds allocated to it”.

The funding, according to Rabasha, will be requested from different votes as and when needed for different aspects of the project.

Regarding the companies that have been shortlisted for the tender, she said as this is restricted international tendering procedure, identification of companies looked at those companies that manufacture, as government wanted to deal directly with the manufacturer at this stage to meet the project specifications; the companies’ reputation; past production and supply of similar products and registration with the International Committee on Animal Recording (ICAR) and other requirements.

She added that the digital ear tags are widely used internationally, including in Botswana’s trading partners like the European Union and this country will not be the first to use the method.
Rabasha said in the SADC region, Namibia has been using RFID ear tag and exports to the EU like Botswana.

“Botswana benchmarked on Namibia, who have been using the ear tags for some years and have continued accessing the export market,” said Rabasha.

The same Swiss company that has been supplying Namibia for the past two years is one of the shortlisted companies whose agent helped DVS in drawing the ITT document.

With regard to whether the RIS had not locked out other potential bidders, encouraged monopoly and killed price competitiveness, Rabasha said “restricted tendering was done especially for this tender looking at the factors that warranted it”.

She said her ministry intended to start the first phase of tagging in the first quarter of 2013 with tagging of all bolused cattle with the second phase of tagging in the second quarter of next year.

Information turned up by the Sunday Standard corroborates Rabasha on the Namibia benchmarking exercise and that the LITS team within the DVS accompanied President Ian Khama on his last visit to Namibia this year.

Questioned on whether the Swiss-based shortlisted company, which some three years ago bought another Spanish manufacturer involved in the production of boluses and ear tags, had already made representations to the ministry including Minister Christian De Graaff, Rabasha said presentations on available technologies in animal recording, identification, tracing and tracking are done by different companies both locally and internationally all the time.

“This is good since it informs the ministry on emerging and available technologies in the livestock industry. All individuals and companies are welcome to make their presentations, whether they later bid or not,” said Rabasha who in turn denied that any company had yet presented on the floating tender.

She also did not disclose when the restricted tender was floated maintaining that companies demonstrate and present their technologies whether there is a tender floating or not.

In conclusion, Rabasha said identified companies for the Restricted International Tender have already been informed.

Market players are, however, worried that the Swiss based manufacturer is likely to have an upper edge in the procurement of the digital ear tags since its Namibian based agent is privy to the required information as he had been party to the drawing of the tender document.

According to Rabasha, government decided to switch from bolus to ear tagging on the back of the farming community’s outcry on the lack of physical identification of an animal inserted with a bolus leading to dependence on veterinary officials who have bolus reading equipment to identify the cattle for them.

She added that due to resource shortages, often market ready cattle could not be sold while awaiting bolus insertion.

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