Sunday, February 25, 2018

T&TEC back-pedals on $8m land contract


t&tec GENERAL MANAGER: Kelvin Ramsook

Mark Fraser

The Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) has back-pedalled on a decision and scrapped an $8 million land acquisition services contract awarded to a partnership that was not recommended by the evaluation committee of the Commission. 

The Sunday Express learned that the decision to cancel the contract was taken by T&TEC in February after the job was not delivered within the promised six-month time frame. The contract was awarded on May 21, 2012 to attorneys Dharamchand Depoo, Vindra Maharaj and Shobna Persaud. 

According to the evaluation report, the three attorneys whose initials are listed on the tender document as “DMP”, indicated that they had intended to form a partnership if successfully selected as the tenderer for the job, while Consortium of Land Acquisition Systems Specialists Ltd (CLASS), a limited liability company, was expected to be sub-contracted to execute the non-legal services for the project. 

Under the Legal Profession Act a company cannot provide legal services; only attorneys can, either as single individuals or in partnership. The contract was for the provision of land acquisition services at Brechin Castle to La Brea Union Estate, Debe to Penal and San Rafael to Wallerfield. 

The scope of works included relocating over 100 residents for the construction of a high voltage network to transmit power from the new Trinidad General Unlimited power station in La Brea.

A public advertisement was put out by T&TEC in July 2011 inviting proposals for tender number 9084 for the land consultancy services. This came after the management of T&TEC decided to stop ROW Services Ltd from providing services for land acquisition from Brechin Castle to La Brea Union Estate, on the basis that the relevant documentation had not been put in place.

The land acquisition contract also awarded to ROW Services Ltd for San Rafael to Wallerfield by the previous board was also terminated. 

In response to the advertisement the following bids were submitted:

• Geometric Surveying Consultants Ltd (GSCL): $6,145,887.50

• ACQ and Associates: $8,667,636.25

• Consortium Land Acquisition Systems Specialists (on the behest of a proposed partnership of three attorneys): $8,421,105

Members of ROW Services Ltd, the Sunday Express learned, formed the partnership—ACQ and Associates and were able to meet the criteria to tender for the job.

In an e-mail dated October 27, 2011, GSCL advised that they acted as agents on behalf of their attorneys, also qualifying them for the job. However, according to the evaluation report after an analysis of each tender submission was completed, discrepancies were identified. Tenderers, the Sunday Express learned, were invited to a meeting on October 19, 2011 to discuss the discrepancies. 

In relation to DMP and ACQ and Associates the evaluation report said: “Breakdown of cost tables contained numerical discrepancies in relation to the individual items for the various right-of-ways. Also ACQ appeared to have applied Value Added Tax twice to the overall price listed in the cost summary.”

The discrepancies, the evaluation report said, were clarified at the October 19 meeting and further explained in letters sent to T&TEC. By letter dated October 21, 2011, DMP said there was a typographical error in the unit cost of item nine of the breakdown of cost for the Brechin Castle to La Brea Union Estate. 

The unit cost, DMP said, should have been reflected as $200 instead of $2,000. 

Two letters dated October 20 and 21, 2011 were sent by ACQ to T&TEC clarifying the numerical errors submitted in their bid. 

Upon final assessment of the tenders the evaluation report said: “It was determined that ACQ and Associates is the most suitable tenderer who attained the highest  score of 78.79 per cent on the basis of having sound understanding, adequate knowledge and key resources in executing the land acquisition process. GSCL placed second with a score of 67 per cent followed by CLASS with a score of 57.60 per cent.”

The evaluation team also expressed concern that no supporting documents were submitted confirming the partnership of DMP.  The evaluation report said: “The name of the organisation as defined in the information of the tender is not listed as CLASS but refers to Dharamchand Depoo, Vindra Maharaj and Shobna Persaud (DMP). As stated in DMP’s letter of October 21, 2011, the three attorneys will form a partnership if successful that the commission will be entering into an agreement/contract with.”

The duration for the job, the Sunday Express learned, was also another major factor that was considered in selecting the tenderer. Tenderers were given a score of 15 per cent for duration. 

“Both ACQ and GSCL stated that their estimated completion time would be 12-months, whilst DMP/CLASS  stated in their clarification letter dated October 21, 2011 that the project completion was six months. Based on past experience, the evaluation team did not think that six months was realistic to complete the land acquisition process for the three corridors. Hence, it was decided not to give DMP/CLASS a higher score in this category. It was felt that the 12-month duration was more realistic but not ideal, and, as such, all tenderers were given a score of 15 per cent for duration,” the evaluation report said. However, sources told the Sunday Express that the Tenders and Contracts Committee rejected the recommendation by the evaluation team and instead awarded the job to DMP. 

Innis: I objected

The decision, however, did not sit well with former acting general manager Charles Innis, who objected to the award of the contract to DMP and expressed his position in an e-mail. 

The e-mail sent to T&TEC general manager Kelvin Ramsook read: “I am in receipt of your memorandum dated January 3, 2012. Given your written instructions as contained in the final paragraph of the memorandum, I have signed the form recommending the award of the caption tender in favour of DMP/Class. I wish to reaffirm my position in support of the evaluation committee’s recommendation that ACQ/ROW, being the first-ranked tenderer based on all the published criteria, should be awarded the tender. I therefore disagree with the Tenders and Contracts Committee’s approval of DMP/CLASS for the award but have acted as instructed.”

Innis listed the following reasons for his objection:

• DMP/CLASS was not ranked first by the evaluation committee;

• The Tenders and Contracts Committee, in recommending DMP/CLASS, only considered two of the five published criteria: cost and time. The other criteria—resources, experience and methodology—were not considered;

• The evaluation committee had taken all published criteria into consideration in the evaluation of the tender;

• The six-month timeframe was unrealistic and would not be met;

• The tenderer approved by the Tenders and Contracts Committee had no track record in compulsory land acquisition;

• The tenderer recommended by the evaluation committee, ACQ/ROW, was the only one with experience and had been in the business for a number of years. The fact that they had worked on the project before made them ideal;

• The difference in price between DMP/ CLASS  and ACQ/ROW was only $214,375, or 29 per cent;

• He disagreed that ACQ/ROW had an unfair incumbent advantage because they had worked on the project before; and 

• A summary of the evaluation committee’s assessment of ACQ/ROW and DMP/CLASS showed ACQ/ROW totaled 78.79 points compared to 57. 60 points.

Innis had previously stated in an interview that a contract had not been prepared for one of the jobs awarded to Row Services Ltd. 

“It did not happen under my watch. When I realised no contract was prepared, I instructed for a contract to be drafted up so works from Brechin Castle to La Brea could be completed. The documents were prepared for approval for the contract, but a decision was taken to go out for public tender,” Innis said. 

As to why he opted to recommend DMP for job in spite of the evaluation team selecting ACQ and Associates, he said: “That was neither my recommendation nor that of the evaluation committee. I was instructed                                                                                                                     to do so. I complied. I am no longer at T&TEC.”

Ramsook: We are using 

internal resources

When the Sunday Express contacted Ramsook on Friday, he confirmed that the land acquisition contract awarded to DMP had been cancelled.

“The work was being done by a consortium but we felt given the time frames it would be in our best interest to conclude the contract. T&TEC now has a land management section and we took a decision to continue the acquisition process via internal resources, while the legal aspect of the process will be handled by the legal department. I officially notified DMP about the decision taken by T&TEC.”

Asked what percentage of the contract was paid to DMP, Ramsook said: “In terms of payment, this particular contract had a liquidated clause amounting to $1,000 per day. The liquidated clause was applied, and in addition, we had a performance bond which was close to $1 million. In concluding, T&TEC decided to take the proceeds of the bond. Based on the net off value (DMP) gained nothing and T&TEC got $1 million. The contract had a number of stipulated clauses that protected T&TEC.”

DMP looks at legal action 

When the Sunday Express contacted Persaud, spokesperson for DMP, on Friday she said the partnership intends to initiate legal action against T&TEC.  

Asked what exactly led to the contract being scrapped, Persaud said: “I don’t want to talk about the matter right now. What I can say is that a letter is pending to be sent to T&TEC because we have had to deal with issues of frustration.”

Persaud said the partnership was informed of the decision taken by T&TEC in February. 

“I really don’t want to discuss any further details surrounding the matter,” Persaud said.