IPRP orders PFMU to award contract to legitimate winner

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By IPRP Communications Unit

The Independent Procurement Review Panel (IPRP) has on Tuesday 23rd May, 2023, in a ruling, ordered the Projects Fiduciary Management Unit under the Ministry of Finance to award the previous winner, Harris Construction and Engineering Services, having pulled the total highest scores in both Technical and Financial Evaluations in the first legally constituted panel.

The Panel further warned the PFMU to avoid discarding professional advice on procurement issues, adding that the re-evaluation of the procurement process was Void Ab Initio and of no moment, and that the entire reevaluation of the procurement process was fraught with irregularities. 

A complaint was filed by Harris Construction & Engineering Services to the Independent Procurement Review Panel (IPRP) on 31st March, 2023 for alleged procurement irregularities in the procurement process for the construction and rehabilitation of the Bo Secondary School and Kenema Government Secondary school (lot 2).

The Independent Procurement Review Panel is a creation of section 65 (1) of the Public Procurement (PPA) No.10 of 2016.  The IPRP is charged with the responsibility to review complains/ appeals from dissatisfied bidders about decision of a procuring entity.

According to facts from both the Complainant and Respondent, there were three (3) bidders after the expression of interest, the Appellant was invited to a bid opening by the Procurement Committee of the Respondent.

On 22nd September 2022, the Projects Fiduciary Management Unit (PFMU) wrote to the Appellant notifying him that they have progressed to the Financial Stage having scored the highest grade of 96.2 % in the Technical Evaluation.

Furthermore, a No Objection letter was sent to the DONOR BANK for their approval to proceed to the Financial Stage, which was given for them to proceed.  The Appellant was notified by a notification letter that his institution scored the highest in the Technical Evaluation Stage.

After correction of arithmetical error, the Appellant was graded highest in technical, and most Responsive in the Financial Evaluation with a grade score of 100 %.

Having been recommended for the award of contract by the evaluators, the Ministers of Finance wrote to the   Donor Bank instructing that the recommendation to award the contract to the Appellant be rescinded on the grounds that they have received a letter of protest from the beneficiaries alleging that the Appellant, if giving the contract will inevitably do a poor work.

The Procurement Committee summoned all evaluators to a reevaluation of the process. During this process, the Procurement Specialist as well as Head of Procurement advised the team not to venture into a reevaluation of the bid having gone through the evaluation stages and certified by all ten evaluators.

 After the reevaluation, the Appellant was informed by way of a letter that he had progressed to the Financial Stage by scoring 96.2 % in the Technical Evaluation.  The Appellant filed a protest to the Team Lead of the PFMU on 16th February, 2023, requesting for clarification on the grounds for which they were removed from first to second position.

The Respondent did not provide a detailed score sheet to verify the Appellant claims.  The IPRP held a day hearing providing opportunity for both Appellant and Respondent to be heard on the issues. Both parties passionately presented their cases and clarifications were made by panelists though the Respondents did not submit documents demanded by the Panel.

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