P.M. defends public tender process

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has defended the Government’s public tender process, in response to criticisms on social media.

During his weekly press conference, the Prime Minister said the process is lengthy and comprehensive. 

“There are criteria’s that companies must adhere and it is a comprehensive process. 

“The contractor must meet all the requirements of each standard, and if the contractor misses one criteria for any other reason, their bid will be disqualified,” he said. 

According to Tuilaepa, the Tenders Board Chairman is the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, and deputy chairman is Minister of Works, Infrastructure and Transport, Papali'i Niko Lee Hang.  There are also representatives from the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General’s Office. 

“There is a deadline for every tender and that late submissions will not be considered, and so when the time comes to open the bids, all the companies are present along with the Board. 

“These bids are publicly opened and so each company representative will know whether their bid was the highest or the lowest.”

The second phase, according to the Prime Minister, is the technical evaluation by engineers and the Tender board. 

“After that assessment (if the project is funded by the World Bank, their input is also considered by the Tenders Board) then the recommendation to the Cabinet. 

“The majority of the recommendations by Cabinet, I’d say 90 percent is approved while other decisions are questioned and rejected.” 

“Keep in mind there are two Ministers sitting on the Tender Board versus 13 Cabinet Ministers and we always question their decisions,” he added.

The Prime Minister said other issues the Board considers is whether the contractors who placed bids have had experience with previous projects. 

“They also consider the ability of the company in terms of equipment they have, also if these companies have enough civil engineers, these are all factors the Tenders Board considers, prior to submitting their recommendations to the Cabinet for final approval. 

“There are also companies who think they can cheat the system, by making the smallest bid with the intention to submit variations. 

“If the bid is submitted with a significant amount the Board will question why.”

Furthermore, for every project that is awarded there is a time limit and if for any other reason the project is not completed, the Government will fine the contractors. 

“It can be the weather, or a land dispute in the village, while the project is on hold, the fine will accumulate,” said Tuilaepa. 

He also emphasised that the submission of a cheap bid does not necessarily mean the company will win the tender. 

“There are times the engineer of the contractor will try and make a shortcut or try and get the engineer of the Government to agree to a shortcut and this happens every in the world,” he added, before using as an example a multistory building in town. 

 “That project started off with a minimal price on the project. However, it was on hold due to the increasing of cost. In the end the work done on the building had to be restarted, given the condition of the building was not up standard. That is why the tender process is relatively important, to avoid similar situations,” Tuilaepa said.

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