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The process through which the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines awards contracts has come under scrutiny after the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) withdrew funding for a project following an objection from a contractor and ordered that the funds be repaid.

The CDB, after an investigation following a complaint by one of the tenderers, cancelled financing for the “Yarabaqua River Defence” project and ordered that the Ralph Gonsalves government repay, with interest, any money already withdrawn for the project.

The decision by the CDB to withdraw financing for the “Natural Disaster Management – Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (December 2013 Trough Event) related-project, came after an investigation triggered by a Sept. 14, 2018 letter of objection to SVG’s Chief Engineer.

In his letter of objection, Cameron Balcombe, managing director of Bally and Bally Investments Ltd. complained about the award of the contract to Reliable Construction Ltd., another Vincentian firm.

Reliable Construction Ltd.’s bid was $1,421,576.

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In a May 23, 2019 letter to Balcombe, Monica La Bennett, vice-president (operations) of the CDB, said the bank had conducted a thorough review of the procurement process of the award of the contract.

“As a result of this review, CDB has declared misprocurement in accordance with Paragraph 1.13 of CDB’s Guidelines for Procurement (January 2006), and will not be financing this contract,” La Bennett said.

She advised that all inquiries related to the matter be referred to the government of SVG.

Paragraph 1.13 of CDB’s Guidelines for Procurement (January 2006), which is headlined “MISPROCUREMENT”, says:

“CDB does not finance expenditures for goods, works and services which have not been procured in accordance with the agreed provisions in the Financing Agreement and as further elaborated in the Procurement Plan. 15/ In such cases, CDB will declare a misprocurement, and it is the policy of CDB to cancel that portion of the CDB Financing allocated to the goods, works and services that have been misprocured. CDB may, in addition, exercise other remedies provided for under the Financing Agreement. Even after the contract is awarded and after obtaining a ‘no objection’ from CDB, CDB may still declare a misprocurement if it concludes that the ‘no objection’ was issued on the basis of incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading information furnished by the Recipient of CDB Financing or the terms and conditions of the contract had been modified without CDB’s approval.”

Alistair Campbell, acting chief engineer, Ministry of Transport, Works, Urban Development and Local Government, notified the tenderer of the CDB’s decision in a June 27, 2019 letter, noting, “CBD will therefore no longer finance this contract.”

In his letter, Balcombe had pointed out that among the criteria for the award of the contract are that the bidder must meet minimum experience requirements in the key activities of gabion wall construction, reinforced concrete construction, and river training.

He noted that SVG is a small archipelago “and it is unlikely that major works costing over one million dollars would go unnoticed.

“I [am] confident, from my own knowledge and inquiries, that Reliable Construction Limited has not done any Gabion basket or river training works of that magnitude or at all in this State or elsewhere to even qualify under the assessment as substantially responsive,” Balcombe wrote.

“Therefore, there has either been a false declaration made in their forms or unlawful and unfair intervention by someone of influence on their behalf,” the letter continued.

Balcombe said it “is utterly unfair” that contractors spend time and resources to bid for these contracts “only to be unfairly treated”.

“Other contractors express the same concerns but are afraid to speak out for one reason or another. The process of bidding should be fair and transparent, but this basic discipline is taken for granted or much indifference is shown by those responsible for overseeing and enforcing it.”

The letter continued:

“This is a very serious matter. If the evaluators are unable to see through schemes, then we, the Contractors, have a duty to our businesses to make full and frank disclosures and objections where relevant.”

He said the contracts should be awarded “for the benefit of the country, but it should be based on the satisfaction of the stipulated criteria, fulfilment of documentation as required and in the round the lowest qualified bidder.

“I understand this to mean that the lowest overall bidder will not always be awarded the contract after the assessment of their submitted documentation for the tender, but to the lowest qualified bidder taking into account the budget, the bidder’s fulfilment of the criteria and completion of bid documents.”

Balcombe also asked the chief engineer for “a debriefing as to the reasons for eliminating the qualified bidders, in particular my Company’s own bid”.

16 replies on “Award of contracts in SVG under scrutiny as CDB orders repayment of funds”

    1. Jolly Green says:

      Urlan, Julian Francis is the Minister of works, depending on the outcome can we expect him to resign?

  1. If the CBD has found this Country of ours wanting in our approach to the awarding of Construction contracts, Vincentians have to ask themselves why such poor behaviour on the part of those who governs us!

    In Brazil unfair practises was found to have had at its heart, profound corruption in the highest office of state, in the now famed “Operation Car Wash:

    “Operation Car Wash: Is this the biggest corruption scandal in history? What began as an investigation into money laundering quickly turned into something much greater, uncovering a vast and intricate web of political and corporate racketeering”.

  2. Does no one care that this article is one-sided and not subjective journalism?
    Why has Reliable Construction not been contacted to have an opportunity to clear their name and the false accusations made about the company, their experience and qualifications.
    This is a company that has one of the largest fleet in St.Vincent. Employs over 40 Vincentians at any given time. An investment of this nature and size would not be done on a whim.
    Instead of trying to promote the growth and success of a Vincentian company is the purpose to keep bringing in foreign companies to do the job?

  3. Did someone made up a company just to take the contract. How can an unqualified company be granted a contract and a qualified company be turned down. We are all Vincentians we deserve better.

  4. As a contractor as well I can totally understand Mr. Balcombe’s frustration. Projects of all types and sizes are regularly awarded to contractors who do not meet the minimum criteria stipulated in the tender documents. However, as these are government projects many contractors do not want to cause a disturbance by questioning the decisions because they fear they will no longer be considered at all for projects. In this instance I have to applaud Mr. Balcombe’s willingness to take the bull by the horns.

    And for the CDB to pull the funding, it means that they conducted their own investigation on the allegations and found Mr. Balcombe to be correct in his accusations.

    I am neither for nor against either of these contractors, but if you as a contractor do not meet the requirements of the tender, you should not submit a tender. And the selection process of the contractor should also have noted the suitability of the contractor and investigate their eligibility further before awarding the contract. If the CDB investigators found that the contractor was not eligible, how could our own reviewers not?

    Unfortunately there is a lot of politics that are involve as well, and repeatedly I have seen projects go out to tender when there is no intention of giving anyone a chance, the job was “awarded” long before any tender was submitted. But by law on amounts over a certain value the government must go to tender; so a farce is made to “abide” by the law.

    As for the repayment of the funds, if the contractor who won the project did so knowing that they were not qualified, they should be held accountable to some degree. But at the end of the day, it is the public who will pay, as our tax dollars will be used to repay the CDB; and more than likely we will have a harder time getting CDB funding in the future.

  5. Devonte charles says:

    The company is not unqualified the company has all it takes to do this job but this is not going to affect the company or dinky it would affect svg as a country smh smh

  6. This is an embarrassment to the state of SVG. Am wondering why is the government taking so long to respond and clear the air. If all reports are correct then someone should resign and the tenders board investigated and replaced. There may also be criminal implications. This cannot be a good thing for local companies that follow the law and bid on these projects.

    1. Jolly Green says:

      Because dear Muse, when one of their own is caught with their hand in the cookie jar they want to bury the information not expose it.

  7. Jolly Green says:

    “Under Scrutiny” by whom, certainly not the government, they already know all the answers.

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