Friday, November 13, 2009

Forest contracts' protests choke FDA

Logging companies which participated in the recent vetting process for forest management contracts but lost have expressed shock and dismay over an alleged apathetic attitude adopted by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in promptly addressing their protest against the awards of Forest management contracts to the International Consultant Capital(ICC) and Euro-Logging by the Inter-Ministerial Concession Committee (IMCC) headed by NIC Chairman Richard Tolbert contrary to the findings of the Bid Evaluation Panel.
The companies said although the Bid Evaluation Panel had reported that Euro-Logging did not meet the minimum financial bid requirement to operate a forest concession and that ICC’s purported claims of financial capability was somewhat uncertain and questionable based on its reliance on an unnamed director in a corporation, the IMCC took a rather myopic decision and awarded forest management contracts to the two companies in total contravention of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission Act(PPCC).
An investigation conducted by this writer and confirmed by testimonies of the companies that lost the bid shows that there was a serious procedural and administrative blunder committed by the IMCC which our investigation discovered is not only a slur on the credibility on the entire vetting process but also raises a fundamental question as to how the IMCC arrived at the decision of selecting companies with limited and questionable financial and technical capacities.
Under the PPCC Act the IMCC has two basic functions; (1) to approve the recommendations of the Bid Evaluation Panel; and (2) to reject or recommend further investigation by the panel, but our investigation revealed that the IMCC chose to re-evaluate or re-rank companies that were already evaluated by the Bid Evaluation Panel.
Our investigation also shows that amongst the companies challenging the decision of the IMCC is UNITIMBER which strongly contended that the IMCC’s alleged decision of arrogating unto itself the power to re-evaluate and re-rank competitive bidders is inconsistent with the PPCC Act.
The losing companies have therefore filed separate complaints challenging the award process and demanding explanation as to the method used in awarding forest management contracts to ICC and Euro-Logging contrary to the panel findings.
Our investigation also shows that although the complaints were filed by the companies in the middle of August 2009 to the Forestry Development Authority, they are yet to receive any reply and insiders have hinted that the FDA is embarrassed over what the IMCC has done and therefore referred the companies’ protest letters to the chairman of the Bid and Evaluation Panel for response contrary to the PPCC Act.
A source close to UNITIMBER has described as a great shame the continued delay for almost three weeks by both the FDA and IMCC to reply his company’s letter of protest and indicated that the FDA has shamelessly resorted to excuses and delay tactics as a ploy to play for time and create an ill-fated impression that the award process was free and fair.
The source however noted that it would be a serious miscalculation for anyone in the FDA or IMCC to live under the illusion that his company’s patience will run out and thereby abandon the idea of demanding an explanation.
He said because the award process was riddled with flaws and the companies that were selected did not believe what they heard, they are now desperately engaged in massive media campaigns as part of the shallow tactics of lies and misrepresentation to conceal their financial inadequacies, administrative hypocrisies and technical limitations both in character and substance.
Concluding the source said consistent with PPCC Act the FDA owes his company some explanations and expressed serious concern that their protest letter has been referred to the Chairman of the Bid Evaluation Panel whom he said is being told to either respond or reverse his panel’s initial findings to justify what he terms as an award process driven by sympathetic and financial considerations at the expense of national interest.
When the Acting Managing Director of FDA, Kederick Johnson was contacted recently he confirmed receiving complaints from some companies that were not awarded contracts but noted that because their complaints contain a lot of legal issues, they were referred to the legal; department for response.
He however refused to give a dateline on when the FDA will address the concerns of the losing companies.
Meanwhile, reports reaching this writer say the companies are threatening to take their complaints to the PPCC as of next week if the FDA to critically look at their concerns and provide redress consistent with the PPCC ACT.

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