Friday, August 2, 2013

State orders probe into award of Sh1.3bn Kebs office tender

Ministry of Industrialisation principal secretary Dr Wilson Songa. PHOTO/JENNIFER MUIRURI

Ministry of Industrialisation principal secretary Dr Wilson Songa. PHOTO/JENNIFER MUIRURI  

By ISAAC ONGIRI [email protected]

The government has ordered an internal probe into a Sh1.3 billion tender for the construction of an ultra-modern office and laboratory for the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) in Mombasa.

The tender has been awarded to a local company, Epco Builders, but questions have been raised  forcing the Principal Secretary ministry of Industrialization Dr Wilson Songa to order an audit into the entire tender.

Speaking to the Saturday Nation Dr Songa confirmed that the signing of contract between Kebs and Epco Builders has been stopped to give room for a quick internal audit and proper due diligence.

“Yes we have had complaints raised by various stakeholders. We have decided to look into some of the issues raised first before a clear decision can be made. Once that is done, we will inform you,” Dr Songa stated.

Friday the Kebs board of directors chaired by Dr Karanja Thiongo was to meet to re-evaluate the issue after the ministry ordered a clean process and observation of high standards in the deal.

“We’ve also asked the board to meet today to look at this matter and give us a report detailing the entire process and findings. After that, we will decide on the way forward,” the PS said.

Though Dr Songa did not reveal the nature of complaints raised; questions on why the evaluation committee chose the highest bidder who quoted Sh1.32 billion, and the documents supplied by some vendors are among the issues under scrutiny.

Complaints of massive interference by external forces including a top politician who wanted to influence the process were also raised. Further, representatives from the department of public works are also said to have been ignored before the final decision on awarding the deal was struck.

Other top contenders for the bid were China Overseas placing a Sh1.28 billion and Mulji Devraj with Sh1.29 billion bids.

Claims of forgeries of crucial documents and use of expired certificates by some of the bidding firms to manipulate the process have also been rife.

Kebs managing director Eva Oduor has already issued an award letter to city-based constructors Epco Builders — the highest bidder in the tender.

“This process was above board. In our own estimation, Epco was the most qualified and it was within the margins set by the law,” Ms Oduor stated.

She said that other potential candidates for the tender were knocked out on technical grounds despite their reasonable quotations.

“Some of them did not have the required documents and failed the required technical aptitudes. The evaluation committee made the decisions,” she said.
Ms Oduor explained that the tender was huge and that Kebs was under obligations to ensure all risks are contained at the evaluation.

She expressed surprise at the post-tender complaints adding that the process was clean and that complaints did not even raise issues through the Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA) within the 14-day appeal window.

The Kebs boss further said that her decision to write the award letter was informed by the recommendations made by the tender evaluations committee.

Nine companies had placed their bids for the construction of the modern laboratories to be located at Miritini in Mombasa. The deal includes the construction of a major administration block with two wings and standard laboratory.

“It is a big project. We are installing fine cupboards, equipping for analysis among other things,” said Ms Oduor.

Mr Ramji Bhai whose company, Epco Builders, bagged the tender confirmed they had received the award letter but was unaware of the complaints raised against the process. His company had quoted Sh1.32 billion.

“Yes we have received the letter awarding us the tender from the MD. We have no information on any other thing and we do not wish to say anything for now,” Mr Bhai explained.

Mr Bhai also defended the integrity of the documents provided by his firm while applying for the tender.

The Miritini Kebs office block would also be furnished with a set of compressed vacuum and high powered laboratory equipment to enhance testing standards for imported and exported commodities. Other components of the giant tender includes the installation of the incinerator insulations, solar water heating systems, sauna and gym equipment, the setting up of a kitchen and laundry centre among others.