NOMINATION TIME: People’s National Movement (PNM) Political Leader Dr Keith Rowley, left, signs his nomination papers yesterday at Balisier House. Looking on is general secretary Ashton Ford.

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STOP $1b DEAL

Rowley alerts President Carmona to Beetham wastewater contract to SIS

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Super Industrial Services (SIS) has been awarded  a billion-dollar contract for the Beetham Wastewater Treatment Plant by State-owned National Gas Company (NGC) even though that company’s bid was $400 million more than the other bidder on the project, Atlatec.

This claim was made yesterday by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley at a news conference at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

And Rowley wants the President to intervene in this matter.

In response to questions, he said this is a matter that should attract the attention of President Anthony Carmona. 

“This is preparation and execution by way of the rape of the Treasury,” Rowley said as he cited the President’s inaugural speech. 

“If the President is to be true to his commitment to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, he must ask the Government for an explanation about this development. I am calling on the Government to stop the award of  this contract,” Rowley stated.

The project involves the building of a plant to treat the polluted water to make it usable at Point Lisas.

Rowley charged the bidding process was conducted “to drive away” 14 out 16 contractors who were interested in submitting tenders. 

Some of these contractors, he said, were “world renowned” such as Vinci Construction, Kentz Caribbean and Latin America, GLF Construction,  Technologica Intercontinental, Aqualia Infrastructuras, Societe Generale Des Eaux, Doshion Private Ltd, Universal Projects Ltd, Seven Seas Water (Trinidad), AST Clean Water Technology, Earth Company Ltd and GE Water, among others.

Rowley said the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) handed the project over to NGC. He said when the request for expression of interest went out, many companies were interested. 

The request went out on September 9, 2013, a project briefing was scheduled for September 25 and tenders closed on October 28. 

The Opposition Leader said it was highly unusual to have a period of seven weeks between the request and the close of tender for a billion-dollar project. He said the Opposition’s investigations with reputable firms revealed a proper response to a request such as this required preparation of three to four months.

Rowley claimed the companies asked for an extension which WASA refused to give, leading many of them to lose interest. 

He said WASA later “purported to give an extension” but by then 14 of the 16 contractors originally interested pulled out “because they came to the conclusion that the process was questionable”. 

The only contractors to submit a bid were Atlatec and SIS. Atlatec is a subsidiary of Mitsui and Toyo Engineering of Japan. 

Rowley said during the Carnival week “when the country was gyrating”, NGC advised Atlatec via letter on February 27, they had failed in their submission which meant the last company standing was SIS. 

“And this was the intention all along,” he said. “We now have to conclude that the preferred bidder is SIS ... which has grown like a cat in the last four years,” he said. 

He claimed, however, SIS’s bid was $400 million more than Atlatec’s. 

Rowley said the Government is prepared to ignore the fact that one company can do the job for $400 million cheaper and give the contract to another company whose bid is $400 million higher.  

Rowley noted SIS has been given a number of contracts, including a $240 million contract to build a transport hub in Central Trinidad.

He added that WASA and NGC began to advertise the project last week as part of the “Vaseline’’ for one of the most cynical actions for the rape of the public purse. 

Rowley said he wanted to know what were the significant variations in the two bids that led to the difference in the bid price. Rowley said it was a classic case of bid- rigging

On the Prime Minister’s trip to China, Rowley said this Government which has spent over $300 billion was now dependent on the Chinese for an “emergency loan” of $5 billion in time to execute projects by March 2015, which happens to coincide with the height of the run-up to the 2015 election. 

He said many of these projects were not under parliamentary control of the national budget. “This is the feeding trough where the Government expects to fund its election campaign with a profligacy never before seen in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. 

Contacted by text for a comment yesterday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Ganga Singh responded: “That matter is for NGC.”

NGC: Contract awarded to consortium

NGC’s vice president, Human and Corporate Relations, Cassandra Patrovani Sylvester, said last night the contract was awarded to a consortium of companies which include Foster Wheeler, SIS and Hyflux. 

She stated SIS submitted the tender package on behalf of the consortium. The bid was approximately US$167 million (about TT$1 billion), she said.

Patrovani Sylvester said 14 companies bought tender packages and requests for extensions were accommodated. She said the criteria used for evaluation of bids were technical ability/experience and cost. “It should be noted that of the two companies which submitted tender packages, one company quoted approximately US$95 million (TT$600 million) with numerous variables proposed that would have eventually escalated the costs,” she stated. 

In an apparent response to the allegations of bid-rigging made by Opposition Leader Keith Rowley, Patrovani Sylvester described the tender evaluation process, saying the tenders submitted were evaluated by a cross-functional team of six experts from both the National Gas Company and National Energy. “The team, following a thorough review, site visits, etc, made their recommendation to NGC’s Management Tenders Evaluation Committee (MTEC). The MTEC reviewed the recommendations of the cross-functional team and made their own recommendation to the NGC Board Tenders Committee,” she said. 

The Board Tenders Committee subsequently reviewed the submission and forwarded their recommendations for award to the NGC board of directors, following which the final award would have been made, she added.

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