NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 7 – The conduct of Education Ministry officials involved in the multi-billion shilling laptops tender has been put under the spotlight before the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board, as firms challenging the outcome presented their cases.
Documents seen by Capital FM news show that queries have been posed over the manner in which the tender, which was awarded to Olive Telecommunications, was opened in clear disregard of procurement rules.
Key among them is the fact that the total price for the tender of the winner was apparently not read out as required.
Firms opposed to the award of the tender to Olive Telecommunications argue that the tender opening and reading process was not done in conformity with procurement regulations which demand that they must be done in a fair, equitable and transparent manner.
They contend that bidders in the tender were asked to include all costs Before the Best and Final Offer (BAFO) tender opening and this rule applied to Olive when tenders were publicly read out in December 2013.
It was submitted that the law strictly prohibits both a tenderer and the ministry from changing the contents and substance of a tender after submitting it and after the prices are read out to all parties competing for the tender.
It raised suspicions and strong objections when the figure in the award to Olive Telecommunications changed by more than Sh1.3 billion after the tender was opened in February 2014.
Suggestions have been now made by tenderers that the inexplicable increased pricing of the tender which occurred between the period after the bids were opened and the date of award of the tender is indicative of collusion between the Ministry of Education officials and Olive.
It has been argued that the inclusion of undeclared “additional costs” to the total bid price left room for price manipulation which destroyed the bidder’s confidence in the transparency of the entire process.
The ministry has been accused of conducting itself with such impunity that it did not even bother to address its attention to whether the components of the procurement were within or outside the context of the tender in question.
The ministry has also been accused of being deliberately obstructive in failing to release tender records, despite several petitions to comply with the law and reveal details of its evaluation methodology, its comparison of tenders and how it arrived at the award pointing to the process being illegal and devoid of objectivity.
Olive’s capability as an Original Equipment Manufacturer – who can design products and manufacture products as per its own specifications – has also been questioned before the review board.
Olive Telecommunications is said to have confirmed that New Century Optronics of China (CNC) its alleged joint venture partner, builds the laptops on its behalf and it seemingly cannot therefore be an Original Equipment Manufacturer in the plain reading of the term.
It however remains for the Review Board to make finding on the definition of what constitutes an OEM after competing submissions were made on the issue.
Haier has in the meantime denied any links with Olive Telecommunications as suggested in media reports, saying Haier Electrical Appliances Corporation Limited has no relationship with Haier Telekom India PVT Ltd or its principals who appear to be the same two persons associated with Olive.