Telecommunications industry regulator Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) could be in trouble following allegations that a bidder’s tender documents may have been tampered with to lock it out of a multi-million-shilling integrated marketing communications deal. The allegations that the bid documents of Transcend Media may have been interfered with arose during the hearings of an appeal before the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB). The review board has since nullified the decision by CA to award the three-year contract for integrated marketing communications to Scanad Kenya, part of the WPP Scangroup.
Transcend Media, which contested the award to Scanad, told PPARB that it had serially paginated its proposal as was required, and even attached a soft copy to confirm the same.
However, Transcend’s proposal was knocked out at the mandatory evaluation stage on grounds that it “did not serialise bid documents as per the requirements of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (PPADA) in a format of 0001.
The evaluation had found that pages 229 to 356 of Transcend Media’s proposal were not serialised.
In its ruling of June 21, PPARB said; “On the issue of serialisation of the tender, the board heard several submissions on this issue which raised a serious nature regarding the issue of whether the applicant’s (Transcend) tender document was serialised, or whether it was tampered with or not.”
“The board considers this to be a weighty issue which may be of interest to other investigative organs established by law if the applicant desires to pursue the issue further,” PPARB stated in the ruling.
The Sunday Nation has learnt that the allegations of interference with bid documents have since attracted the interest of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
Nine media firms submitted bids for the lucrative tender to provide “integrated marketing communication needs, including brand management, corporate communication (issues and crisis management, reputation management and PR), event management, digital and social media management, media monitoring, market research, media buying, consumer education, public awareness and community relations and corporate advertising.”
Besides Transcend and Scanad, other bidders were Leo Brands, The Dream Factory, Express DDB Kenya, Brand Strategy and Design (EA) Ltd, Inter-Management Group Kenya Ltd, Saracen Media Ltd and Havas Media Ltd.
Of the nine, only Scanad and Brand Strategy and Design passed the mandatory evaluation stage. Brand Strategy and Design (EA) Ltd then failed to go past the technical evaluation stage, leaving Scanad as the most responsive bid.
The board also questioned how Scanad’s proposal was found to be responsive at the mandatory evaluation stage yet “page 1 of the successful bidder’s proposal itself was not serialised/paginated, contrary to parameter number nine of the mandatory requirements set out in the tender document.”
“The board wishes to observe that there is a growing number of cases where bidders with competitive prices are eliminated from tender processes at the preliminary evaluation stage on the basis of non-substantive issues such as lack of pagination and non-declaration of litigation history,” the board noted.
Other than technical aspects of serialisation of pages that was used to knock out seven of the nine bidders and which PPARB found to be trivial, the tender was also nullified on grounds that CA evaluated bids outside the 21 days provided for by Section 126(3) of PPADA Act.
“The procuring entity (CA), having therefore conceded that it did not undertake the evaluation process within the prescribed period and that it did not extend the time as set out under Regulation 14 of the Regulations, any subsequent activity in the evaluation process after the expiry of the said period of 21 days was an exercise in futility,” PPARB said in the ruling.
Besides, the award of the lucrative tender to Scanad was nullified on grounds that CA overlooked the provisions that require procuring entities to give preference to Kenyan-owned companies.
CA was therefore directed to re-advertise the tender within 14 days of the ruling, which should have been done by last Thursday.