No allegation of corruption in allocating project – Chairman of Tenders Board
The mis-procurement declared by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) of funds allocated to a river defence project in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) does not amount to corruption.
This is one of several points highlighted in a statement dated July 22, 2019, written by the Edmond Jackson, the director general of Finance and Planning and the chairman of the Tenders Board.
This statement comes amidst claims of corruption within the tendering process and follows the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) recent decision to rescind its funding for a river defence project at the Yarabaqua River on the Windward side of this country.
“…Indeed there is absolutely no allegation of corruption, fraud, impropriety or misbehaviour in public office by any official in the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines or elsewhere,” the statement said (see page 3 for full statement).
“The CDB’s review indicates essentially that the conditionalities and rules were not scrupulously applied, thus leading to its holding of unfairness in the process of competitive bidding.”
Jackson said the value of the current mis-procurement, which is just over $1.4 million, is representative of a small percentage of the total procurements undertaken by the government with the CDB and in no way characterises the state of the government’s procurement system.
He added that “public procurement has always been conducted with the utmost transparency”.
Seven bids were received by the Ministry of Transport and Works on April 23, 2018 for the Yarabaqua river project, which falls under the National Disaster Management (NDM) Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Project (December 2013 Trough Event).
These bids came from OB Sadoo Engineering Services Ltd, Hutchinson Construction Co. Ltd, Bailey Contractors Inc, Bally and Bally Investments Inc, Franco Construction Ltd, Reliable Construction Services Ltd and Electric Co. Ltd.
The bid was awarded to Reliable Construction Services Ltd.
And CDB’s decision to pull funding for the contract follows a letter of objection by unsuccessful tenderer, Bally and Bally Investments Inc, whose managing director, Cameron Balcombe alleged that “a false declaration made in their (Reliable Construction Services Ltd) forms or unlawful and unfair intervention by someone of influence on their behalf”.
According to the statement from Jackson, a design and supervision consultant, IBI Group of Canada was contracted by the Ministry of Transport and Works to provide consultancy services under the NDM programme. And in keeping with their terms of reference, the consultancy firm completed the Bid of Evaluation report of the seven bids received for the project.
The statement further notes that the submission from chief engineer, Alistair Campbell to the Tenders’ Board for approval to negotiate with the successful tenderer was accompanied by a letter of ‘No Objection’ from the CDB dated August 13, 2018.
Jackson’s statement further reads that “the decision by the Tenders’ Board to award the contract relied upon the Bid Evaluation Report prepared by IBI Group (the consultant) and the letter of ‘no objection’ issued by the CDB”.
“The tendering process of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is an independent one and is not subject to any political or other undue interference. The Tenders Board carries out its obligations with due regard to professionalism, transparency, accountability, and the legal requisites of the process to the best of its ability. Both the tendering process and the work of the Tenders Board have a sound record,” the statement read.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in a separate statement also issued yesterday, said that river defence and river training works of the Yarabaqua river still needs to be done urgently (see page 3 for the full statement).
It noted that Reliable Construction Services Ltd has already carried out work on the project, having been on the job for almost six months.
“RCSL is actually out of pocket for work already done; and RCSL’s work has been assessed as satisfactory,” Gonsalves’ statement said. “The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (GOSVG) has been advised by its relevant officials that RCSL has the capacity, personnel, and equipment to finish the job which it has started. The Ministry of Transport and Works is satisfied that under its ongoing supervision and that of the relevant professional staff of the GOSVG, the usual supervision of infrastructural works can be properly effected with RCSL as the Contractor.”
The Prime Minister, in his statement, said that there is no undue influence, corrupt practice or impropriety in the award of the original contract to Reliable Construction by the Tenders’ Board.
And he said allegations of such are “pure political mischief by opposing political partisans and assorted fellow-travellers”.
Gonsalves’ statement, which is titled “The Way Forward” also said that the CDB recognises that the government has a sound public tendering process and this is one of the reasons the Bank continues to do business with them.