Fresh row to fleet tender

Fresh row to fleet tender

………..Fresh row to fleet tender………….

MASERU –   A NEW attempt by the government to hire a fleet management company to run the government’s vehicles has run into problems after a local firm challenged the procurement process. Transport Specialists (Pty) Ltd this week obtained a High Court order interdicting the Ministry of Finance’s procurement unit and the tender panel from assessing and evaluating bids and awarding a contract pending the determination of its case.

Commercial Court judge Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane also ordered that the tender panel should furnish Transport Specialists with the record containing the list of all companies whose bids were accepted so that they can be joined in the suit.
The company’s managing director, Nkhojane Damane, told Justice Chaka-Makhooane in an affidavit that on September 3 he submitted his bid to tender for the job.
The tender was opened on September 12 and he attended the opening as the company’s representative.

The procurement manager, Motolo Mandoro, announced that he was there to open the tenders.
Mandoro allegedly brought various bids and examined them in front of all bidders.
Mandoro rejected Transport Specialists’ bid on the basis that its two envelopes – for the technical and financial bid – had not been labelled as such.

“This took me by complete surprise as I had personally labelled and marked them with type-written stickers and then photographed them,” Damane said in the affidavit.
“This I had done with the assistance of a business operating under the name of the Oasis Business Suppliers.”
“I told Mandoro this and even showed him the photographs of the envelopes bearing the duly marked labels.”

Damane said Mandoro nevertheless told him that he was rejecting the company’s tender on that basis.
“I then requested the bid documents back but he refused and said they had become government property.”
Damane argues that “the main purpose of the presence of representatives of tenderers at the opening stage is to assist when the need arises, in sorting out any confusion that might arise in respect of mistakes in labelling of envelopes”.

“It cannot be that where a body has the relevant bids before it and envelopes are not labelled or have been wrongly labelled, a representative cannot be allowed to correct the error in the presence of all the interested parties,” he said.

“This must be especially so where the tender notice and operative regulations do not visit non-compliance with invalidation contrary to the decision of (the Procurement Unit).”
Damane asked Justice Chaka-Makhooane to review, set aside and declare as null and void Mandoro’s decision.
He argues that the opening of tenders is the function of the tender panel and not of Mandoro, who is the procurement manager.

“As procurement manager of (the Procurement Unit) he had no business to conduct the opening of tenders, let alone to reject the bids as he did,” Damane said.
“In short, he usurped the functions of the (Tender Panel).”
Damane also argues that the tender panel should not pass an opinion or a comment on the acceptability of mandatory documents except to announce on matters prescribed in the Procurement Regulations.
He said once the tender panel has opened the outer envelope of the tender in order to identify the tender and to announce its identity, it “shall pass all opened tenders to (Procurement Unit) for appropriate action”.

“Nowhere is the (Tender Panel) empowered to reject tenders.”
He said after receiving the opened tenders from the tender panel the procurement unit must put them before the evaluation team to evaluate and review them.
He said once the evaluation team concludes the evaluation process, the matter goes back to the tender panel to consider the report and recommendations as to the award of a contract the evaluation team made.

In an answering affidavit, the Ministry of Finance principal secretary Motena Tšolo said Transport Specialists’ “bid was not rejected but could not have been opened as a result of improper labelling of envelopes as per the requirements of the Tender Notice”.

“The envelopes were never marked with stickers as none such stickers were even found, they were never put in the bid boxes, were too large,” Tšolo said.
She said it is surprising that Transport Specialists “would choose to put a sticker for labelling whereas the rest of the information on the said envelopes were (sic) handwritten with a pen except that he failed to inscribe and label the envelopes as required”.

Tšolo argued that Mandoro is the secretary of the tender panel and “when he executed this duty he wore the cap of Tender Panel”.
She said Transport Specialists seeks to frustrate “the whole intention of the tendering processes and prejudice compliant bidders”.
“(Transport Specialists) has failed to comply with the requirements clearly stated in the bid document,” she said.

“(Transport Specialists)’s application is baseless and calculated at frustrating the whole process without taking into account the prejudice due to be suffered by other compliant bidders.”
She said the company failed when it had an opportunity during the opening to point it out to the ministry that it had duly marked the envelopes with the stickers.
“This came only as an afterthought by (Transport Specialists) who totally failed to comply from the onset.”

The government once owned its vehicle fleet and maintained workshops which it operated as Plant and Vehicle Pool Services (PVPS).
In 1995 the government embarked on a Privatisation and Private Sector Development Programme, which included the privatisation of the PVPS.
In 2002 the government procured the services of Imperial Fleet Services through an international competitive bidding process to provide and manage its vehicle fleet.
The government further leased its maintenance workshops to Imperial Fleet Services.

Subsequent to Imperial Fleet Services, Avis was awarded the contract to provide vehicle fleet and management services to the government in 2007.
This contract was terminated in September 2015 and subsequently Bidvest Bank Limited was engaged to provide the government with fleet under a short-term hire contract.
The government has now decided to proactively use large tenders as an opportunity to catalyse the involvement of Basotho in business.

At the end, in the government fleet tender, it is expected that 1 400 vehicles from Basotho will be leased as government phases out 900 vehicles it currently owns, according to the tender documents. The objective of this disputed tender is to procure a Lesotho registered fleet management company.

Staff Reporter

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