By John Saukira
(Special Investigations desk)
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDAA) have been accused of favouring a company with no experience in a US$35 million (MK27 billion) contract to upgrade the Passport Issuance System (PIS) and Introduction of the Electronic Passport.
At Immigration the people Implicated in the deal are the Head of Research Limbani Chawinga and his boss Masauko Medi who is Director General of the department.
Medi declined to comment this week when asked.
But spokesperson for the Department this week admitted flouting its own rules through its spokesperson Joseph Chauwa
He confirmed that the department is ready to award the contract to Two Trees Investments as a joint venture with ZETES, a Belgium firm, but said they have been working in collaboration with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDAA).
Chauwa said while ZETES had withdrawn from the race, Technobrain was disqualified by the PPDAA after it was found to be under investigations by the ACB and IRIS Corporation was disqualified on preliminary assessment by the department’s Internal Procurement Committee after its bid failed to meet basic requirements leaving Two Trees Investments as the only company meeting the requirements in the race.
“We reported to PPDAA that since the other companies were disqualified, the only company which meets the requirements is Two Trees Investments which is going on a joint venture with ZETES although against our own regulations.
PPDAA gave us a go ahead and we submitted the name of the company to the authority as they are the ones to finally award the contract. As we speak, the contract has not been awarded yet,” he said.
According to the bid document Clause: 11.1 of page 22 states that “A bidder SHALL be allowed to enter into a joint venture with other consultants not invited for this assignment. This clause clearly stops Zettes from participating because it was invited to bid but decided to withdraw. In other words the joint venture violates the bid regulation and therefore should have been disqualified.
TB 11.3 Further specifies that International bidders for large contracts are encouraged to seek the participation of national consultants by entering into a joint venture with, associating with or subcontracting part of the assignment to the assignment to national consultant.
This is what has brought suspicion that Medi and Chawinga may have connived with PPDAA to push the deal through and (PPDAA) to ignore the bid requirements and award the contract to Two Trees.
One of the companies participating in the tender, IRIS Group SA accuses the immigration department of breaching its own bidders’ instructions as it is in pole position to award the multibillion Kwacha contract to Lilongwe based Two Trees Investment jointly bidding with ZETES which it says is against the department’s own bidding regulations.
In a letter to the department, copied to the Director General seeking a review of the whole bidding process IRIS Corporation says at the bid opening, Two Trees Investments declared that they had entered as a joint venture with Zetes, which had earlier withdrawn from the race saying in breach of the bidders’ instructions.
“It is pertinent to note that ZETES was invited to participate and submit their bid. Therefore when Two Trees and Investment submitted its proposal on a joint venture basis with ZETES, the proposal submitted by Two Trees Investment must be rejected and nullified since it is contrary to Clause 11.1 of the bid,” reads the letter in part.
IRIS Corporation also challenges the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services to evaluate the technical and financial expertise of Two Trees Investments to conduct such a huge job saying they are the lead bidder in the whole project.
PPDAA this week failed to respond to question when asked.
Close sources at Immigration department said that during the Bid Evaluation Process, three senior members of the internal procurement committee went out to meet privately and called the director of PPDAA to give an express go ahead which he did.