By Youri Kemp
A local contractor has welcomed the new Public Procurement Draft Bill put forward by the government for consultation believing it would fix the lack of transparency in the government bidding process.
Deborah Deal, president of Contemporary Builders XIX Ltd, and also a board director with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer’s Confederation, said: “Being a contractor and going through the bidding process with government for the past 37 years I understand the confusion and frustration when bidding on government contracts.
“Sometimes you do all of the work for bidding on a scope of government works and you never see the process or how it works its way through the system for them to select a particular bidder.
“This new Bill will make the bidding process transparent so you can see why you won or didn’t win. And also it gives you the option to go the tribunal if you feel aggrieved.”
One thing Ms. Deal says she is deeply concerned about is there is no mention of the private sector being involved on the Public Procurement Board. “There is no mention of anyone from the private sector being a part of he board. But it does say they will get persons from the general civil society,” she said.
The draft Public Procurement Bill in Article 12 Clause 2 (e) states that: “Two persons from civil society appointed by the Prime Minister.”
Ms. Deal told Tribune Business: “The private sector deserves more seats at the table. We are the ones that would be bidding on these contracts. That is the only thing I would change in this bill. We seldom get a seat at the table. We always get left out.”
Deal went on to decry the issue she had faced when she was bidding on a contract at Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) and said “the business in the Bahamas is the private sector. We are the ones that purchase all of the energy and it is us who they ask to be patient. So it should be us that helps to shape and guide decisions moving forward.”
Deal added: “For example, there was a Request for Proposals (RFP) that went out from BPL for 80 megawatts of power generation. It went out October 16, 2017. We received a Request for Proposal (RFP) to provide 80 Megawatts (MW) on the October 16, 2017 but with two addendums attached to it, one dated on October 10 and another dated October 12 in 2017 in the same package sent to us on October 16.
"Unless the persons involved in the RFP process don’t know what they were doing, I know you cannot get an addendum to a document if you never had a conversation with someone beforehand on what the addendum would be and on what should be amended, if you understand what the legal terminology for the word addendum is.
“What they should have done is change the RFP and add in a few things to the RFP itself. Not make it so obvious that they were talking to someone else about the RFP.
“What was also a problem with this particular RFP was that the timeline to submit the proposal was less than two weeks from what I can remember. It was a very short time frame.
“The entity that won the bid was awarded the contract for 270 MW of new power generation along with liquefied natural gas (LNG) and is supposedly moving their head office to The Bahamas, and not for the 80MW of power generation that they were asked for in the RFP.”
Minister for Works, Desmond Bannister, who is also responsible for BPL told Tribune Business in April of this year the BPL bid process for power generation that Ms. Deal referred - which was eventually awarded to Shell North America LNG - was handled in "a most transparent manner".
Bannister said a team from the Ernst and Young (EY) accounting firm was hired, which has also conducted a number of government forensic audits in the past, to review the bidding process and it confirmed it was managed fairly.
“A lot of people spent a lot of money on preparing bids for that job but put forward bids on the 80MW of backup generation that BPL requested in the RFP. So those people that did the work in preparing the bid did so in vain. I’m happy that some progress is being made on making bidding on government contracts more transparent.”