Fight over book tender

Fight over book tender

MASERU – A row over a multi-million tender to supply primary school textbooks has spilled into the High Court.
Morija Sesotho Book Depot (Pty) Ltd this week filed an urgent application in the Commercial Court to block Oxford University Press from supplying the books. Oxford University Press won the tender to write, develop, print, supply and deliver textbooks and teachers’ guides for Grade 7 for the National Curriculum Development Secretariat in October last year.

Morija Sesotho Book Depot says the Public Procurement Regulations of 2007 were not followed in awarding the tender.
It wants the court to order the chairman of the tender panel, the tender panel and the Procurement Policy and Advisory Department (PPAD) to submit the record of the tender process to the court.

In particular it wants the submitted sample copies of all companies that tendered and the full evaluation report of the tender.
Morija Sesotho Book Depot also wants the court to order a re-evaluation of the tender in line with the decision of the PPAD of January 8 this year.

The request comes after the Procurement Unit allegedly ignored the PPAD’s recommendation that the “price be evaluated as stated in the evaluation criteria and Basotho preference margin be granted”.

The PPAD also advised the Procurement Unit “to follow the procedure stipulated in the Public Procurement Regulations 2007 and the manual while conducting” the recommendations. “The Ministry is further advised to carry out the processes within 14 calendar days from the date of receiving this recommendation and at the end of the recommended processes inform all tenderers of the outcome,” the PPAD said in its recommendations.
In an affidavit, the Morija general manager, Bokang Moroeng, said after he was informed that his bid had been unsuccessful he wrote to the Procurement Tribunal seeking an “evaluation report and our submitted sample copies as this will enable us to determine whether we object or not”.
He never received the report.

Moroeng then wrote another letter objecting to the awarding of the tender to Oxford University Press.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education, only cited as Dr. Thabiso Lebese, responded saying the evaluation report was not meant to be disclosed to bidders as it contains information about other bidders.

“No bidder is allowed to access such details about his/her competitors,” Lebese wrote. He advised Morija to seek a detailed de-briefing on its submission only. Morija obliged and asked for its own submission.

The Procurement Manager, Ntsibolane Hlabi, responded saying the procurement regulations said “debriefing is offered when the contract is placed with a successful tenderer”.

“Currently the said tender has an objection so debriefing will not be offered until the complaint is resolved and contract placed,” Hlabi said in a letter.
Moroeng challenged the awarding of the tender in writing, saying his company believed “the award of the contract to Oxford University Press Southern Africa was not fair and will need re-evaluation”.

He argued that Morija “produced the best manuscripts suitable for Lesotho students”.
“Our prices were competitive,” he argued.
He said Morija, as a company wholly owned by Basotho, qualified for a 15 percent preference.

Hlabi told Moroeng that they could appeal to the PPAD in terms of the regulations.
Moroeng then wrote to the PPAD appealing against the award of the contract to Oxford.

Majara Molupe

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