Monday, August 18, 2014

Some mind-boggling tenders and errors




17/08/2014 - 14:00  
Pauline Wong

KUALA LUMPUR: The MyProcurement portal is a veritable minefield of mind-boggling tenders, as there are few details given for the successful bids. Some don’t say how many units of the item were supplied; some were downright mysterious; and many were repetitive.

More importantly, through the website, one would be hard-pressed to discern the two most important elements of an open and transparent procurement system: the criteria for awarding the contract, and who were the other bidders.

While more information is sometimes available in the e-Perolehan website, e-Perolehan is more for companies wishing to register and bid for projects from the government and is not for the laymen to see what the government is doing with its money. Below are some examples:

Category: Open Tender – ‘Cryptic’

➤        There is one that cryptically says: Pembekalan (supplies) for the Prime Minister’s Department totalling RM4,687,088. The project was given to Daya One Resources Sdn Bhd, an IT service provider “that promises commitment in providing technology-based solutions to its customers.”

➤        Another one that baffles is simply described as ‘A’, for the Defence Ministry, worth RM500,000. There is no tender number or company. Although this can be assumed to be an error in data entry, one wonders why it has not been corrected.

Category: Open Tender – ‘How many?’

➤        A tender for “Supply, delivery, installation, testing, training, commissioning and maintenance of desktop computer hardware, notebooks, computers, printers, scanners, LCD projectors and iPad for headquarters and state branch offices to the Attorney General's Department.”

The RM1,887,796.90 project was awarded to MSTi Corporation Sdn Bhd, which describes itself as an end-to-end Oracle solutions provider specialising in systems integration, software development and e-business solutions.

However, it is unclear how many units of computers are involved, how many staff are to be trained, the tenure of the contract and the breakdown of cost for each of the items mentioned.

➤        Supply of Tramadol HCL 50mg capsules/tablets to the Health Ministry for RM1,734,436.00, from Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd. There is no mention of the amount of tablets and capsules supplied. One can only assume the Tramadol HCL (or Ultram), a narcotic-like painkiller, would be used in public hospitals.

➤        Two contracts for rations for the Defence Ministry’s airforce base in Kuantan. They seem to be the same, and possibly have been errantly repeated. Worth RM927,720.00, it does not specify the quantity of the rations, only that it has been awarded to Era Frozen Food Sdn Bhd.

➤        Sewing and clothes delivery service for the No. 5 (Digital) uniform (one can only take a guess at what it is) for the army under the Defence Ministry that is worth RM43,282,716.82 to Sri Pertiwi Textiles Industries (M) Sdn Bhd.

➤        Laundry and alteration service contract for the Regiment 21 Commando at Kem Sungai Udang (Malacca) which costs RM402,667.20, awarded to Kesatria Enterprise. There is no explanation on whether it is for a period of a year, or is it one-off, or how many pieces of clothing were washed.

➤        In some entries, a URL is provided that provides more information on the tender. In one case, for the supply and delivery of serving utensils with the TLDM logo, a hyperlink was provided to the Defence Ministry website, but it led to a blank page.

The contract was awarded to Sykt Anggerik Marketing Sdn Bhd for RM2,956,175.80, but gave no details on how many utensils, engraved with the TLDM logo, were provided.

Category: Open Tender – ‘Repeat contracts?’

➤        Going way back to the archives of the open tenders, another tender which catches the eye is for the Education Ministry. There are five tenders for the same thing: Supply, delivery, installation and testing (wherever applicable) contract for sport science laboratory equipment to national secondary schools.

Four were awarded to Gema Equipment Sdn Bhd at RM2,302,485, RM1,692,180, RM1,764,702 and RM2,031,456 respectively. The fifth, also for the same contract, was awarded to Kejuruteraan Bumi Utama Sdn Bhd worth RM12,998,285.44.

The legitimacy of the contracts is not being questioned — what is being questioned here is the lack of information. Are they all the same project? With so much money involved, surely the taxpayer deserves to know where his money is going?

(And on that note, since when did Malaysian high schools have sports science as a subject?)

➤        Contract for the supply, delivery, installation and testing (where applicable) of equipment for the vocational subject of aquaculture and recreational animals to secondary schools under the Education Ministry, for the year 2009.

There are 10 tenders for the same thing, all given to different companies, totalling about RM38 million, the largest of which was awarded to Vibrantan Sdn Bhd for RM11,011,680. It baffles that so much money was spent on the subject of recreational animals, but no explanation was given as to why.

➤        Then there is something both mysterious and repetitious: a contract for makanan bermasak or ‘cooked food’ under the Ministry of Health. Four contracts, all awarded to Besta Corporation Sdn Bhd, for RM87,807.92, RM8,597.47, RM15,951.94 and RM6,800.39, but there are no details on who the food was for, and on what occasions.

There are, as at press time, only 50 direct negotiation results posted on the MyProcurement website. Here, there is even less information about the deals struck between the ministries and companies.

Many of the reasons given for direct negotiations seem to be keperluan mendesak (urgent need). But what could possibly be urgent about an ASEAN-level forum which has to be prepared months ahead?

Some last-minute purchases could be avoided, among them a RM129,050.80 contract from the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry to THR Hotel (KL) for the rental of technical equipment, lodging and convention package for the 40th Asean Consultative Committee for Standards and Quality and a breakfast forum with the leaders of ISO and IEC.

The excuse for the direct negotiations with THR Hotel was that it was a ‘franchise’ and also ‘urgent need.’ Surely a forum of this level would have been planned months ahead?

“This shows that the Ministry either doesn’t have a procurement plan, or they don’t follow the procurement plan,” Transparency International Malaysia president Akhbar Satar says although the amount of money isn’t huge, it still shows inefficiency.

Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs senior researcher Sri Murniati says in this case, it appears an annual procurement plan was not made, or a plan that was made was not followed.

“In any case, this kind of last-minute procurement should not take place. Probably the government should have a detailed definition of what mendesak means. Last minute procurement caused by poor planning should not be granted mendesak status, and therefore should not be approved for direct negotiation,” she says.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of tenders on the website and these examples are merely skimming the surface. The issue here is not the legitimacy of the contracts but the seemingly limpid attitude towards an important showcase website.

The website is crucial in providing the public the tools in which they can keep an eye on potential abuses within the procurement system. It is not supposed to be a mere show of ‘dedication’ to an open and transparent government. In 2010, shortly after the website was launched, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua highlighted the dubious data integrity of the website.

He noted there were 38 awards amounting to RM182 million which did not have company names and/or numbers as well as a dubious award of RM6.47 billion for food supplies to the army.

In addition, there was a contract worth RM77,920,599.20 for (as per the website then) cadangan membina dan menyiapkan asrama untuk 100 lelaki dan 100 perempuan di smk kuala jenederis, hulu terengganu, terengganu (proposal for the construction of a hostel for 100 boys and 100 girls at SMK Kuala Jenederis, Hulu Terengganu, Terengganu) which was awarded to Rafa Sepakat Sdn Bhd.

The information was later corrected by two decimal points to RM7.8 million, not RM78 million.

Four years later, the mistakes are still happening, as has been mentioned in the examples above. There is also no attempt to provide more detailed information. Surely, the ministries do not expect the Prime Minister to have to deal with such details, or to correct mistakes in data entry.

This article was first published in the May 24, 2014 issue of The Heat.

- See more at: http://www.theantdaily.com/Main/Some-mind-boggling-tenders-and-errors#sthash.nxyX8opC.dpuf

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