Breach stems from award of a contract for quantity surveying services at 4 Windsor Road, St Ann’s Bay property
The Integrity Commission has scolded the National Insurance Fund (NIF) for procurement breaches identified during its investigations into the fund’s award of a contract for quantity surveying services at a property located at 4 Windsor Road, St Ann’s Bay in St Ann.
The investigation by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG), which has been subsumed into the Integrity Commission, commenced on January 3, 2017, during the course of which breaches of the Government Procurement Guidelines were found. In its 38-page investigation report, which was tabled in Parliament yesterday (March 28), the Integrity Commission outlined a number of recommendations towards preventing reoccurrence of the referenced breaches.
The investigation was initiated subsequent to receiving a complaint on April 5, 2016 that the NIF had awarded a contract to Michael Robinson Associates for the provision of Quantity Surveyor services on December 31, 2015 in the amount of J$6,320,888, which was not the lowest bidder. Five bids came in from BGW Cawston & Partners, Michael Robinson & Associates, Neville Mills & Associates, Goldson Barrett Johnson and Burrows & Wallace.
The lowest reflected quotation was submitted by Goldson Barrett Johnson in the amount of J$5,996,600 while Michael Robinson Associates submitted a bid in the amount of J$6,320,888, which was the second lowest bid submitted.
Several procurement breaches found
Having carried out an investigation, the Director of Investigations (DI) for the Integrity Commission, Kevon A. Stephenson concludes that “the NIF acted in contravention of Section 2.2.6 of the GPPPH (Government of Jamaica (GOJ) Handbook of Public Sector Procurement Procedures in its failure to utilise solely the terms expressly outlined in the Request for Quotation (RFQ) in its assessment of the Bids. The DI’s conclusion is supported by the fact that the NIF’s RFQ required the submission of only the following documents: a) a Copy of Tax Compliance Certificate (TCC), b) Copies of Professional Qualification and c) a Copy of Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Registration”.
The Integrity Commission’s DI observes that there was no stated requirement for the completion and submission of the Cost for Methodology for Services Form, yet this was employed as a selection criterion at the evaluation stage. Having regard to the foregoing, Stephenson further concludes that the NIF failed to provide clear instructions in the evaluation criteria which would be utilised to assess the bid submissions.
“Having regard to the lack of clarity concerning the Cost Methodology for Services form, the Director of Investigations finds that the award of contract by the NIF to Michael Robinson Associates lacked fairness, impartiality and transparency as stipulated in Section 1 of the GPPPH 2014. As it relates to the failure on the part of the NIF to commission an Evaluation Committee for the purpose of evaluating the Bids in relation to the provision of Quantity Surveying services, the Director of Investigations concludes that the entity breached Section 2.2.6 of the GoJ Handbook,” the report read.
Stephenson is of the view that the foregoing breach materially compromised the entity’s ability to ensure fairness, impartiality and transparency in the procurement process. He concludes that the NIF’s failure to notify all bidders, including Goldson Barrett Johnson of the outcome of their bid submission for the provision of quantity surveying services breached Appendix A8. 17 of the GPPPH, and as such was irregular.
As such, Stephenson argues that the bidders were deprived of the opportunity to seek clarity and to voice any concerns they may have had. Appendix A8. 17 of the GPPPH 2014 stipulates that the Procuring Entity shall notify the unsuccessful Bidders, as soon as possible, after receiving the signed contract and the Performance Security.
- The procurement officers at the NIF strictly observe Section 2.2.6 of the GPPPH by ensuring that only the evaluation and qualification criteria specified in the bidding documents are applied. In light of the referenced section, the DI further recommends that the NIF refrains from utilizing terms which are not expressly outlined in Bidding Documents i.e. RFQ/RFPs, as part of their evaluation criteria and by extension, in its assessment of Bids submissions in respect of the award of contracts.
- The DI recommends that the NIF’s Head of Entity ensures that the procurement methodology utilised in the award of GoJ contracts is consistent with the contract value thresholds outlined in Section1.3 of the GPPPH. Additionally, the DI further recommends strict compliance with this provision, particularly as it relates to procurement methodologies which limit or remove competition.
- The DI recommends that the NIF’s Head of Entity amends its internal procurement procedures to ensure that the requisite notifications are provided to unsuccessful Bidders who participated in the procurement process so as to bring them in line with provision of Appendix A8. 17 d) of the GPPPH. The provision stipulates that Procuring Entities should ensure that all unsuccessful bidders are notified of the result of their respective bid submissions for each procurement opportunity initiated.