Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) has explained that the correction of a mathematical error on a bid of Sawa Group Limited for the Mzimba Integrated Urban Water and Sanitation Project was in line with procurement guidelines for the project.
NRWB raised eyebrows after the contract price for Sawa Group was raised from the $10.1 million (about KK7.5 billion) as per the contractor’s bid to $14.7 million (about K11 billion).
The Parliamentary Committee on Government Assurances and Public Sector Reforms called for an interface with officials from the board to explain the circumstances surrounding the controversy which broke when the contract disclosure published in newspapers over the weekend put the award contract price at $14.7 million when the bid price was $10.1 million.
In his explanation, NRWB director of technical services Mwiza Mtawali told the committee that the $4.6 million (K3.3 billion) error was noted during a detailed examination of the Sawa Group Ltd bid.
He said the board wrote the bidder who confirmed that there was indeed a mathematical error when adding up the totals for works as outlined.
Mtawali said going ahead to evaluate the bid with the error would have resulted in a protracted battle with the contractor who would not have been able to complete the works.
He said: “Not correcting the error would have changed the contract completely especially the bill of quantities and the contractor would not be able to complete the works because the bid would have costs that were not concluded.”
According to a report submitted to the committee, Sawa Group did not include a $3.9 million bill for item 4l152.6r to install a 500 mm diameter steel ferrous; $130 000 for item 4l111 for in pipe trenches excavation of rock Class I and $101 500 for in pipe trenches excavation of rock Class II.
Reads the report: “Correction of errors is provided for in the ITB 29 of the standard bidding document prepared by the African Development Bank [AfDB] that was issued to all the prequalified contractors. There is no limit to errors that can be corrected.”
When queried why the board did not involve the Office of the Director of Public Procurement, director Paul Taulo said they could not issue a no-objection because the guidelines being used were not for international competitive bidding but that of AfDB.
Committee member Sam Kawale wondered why the tender was not re-advertised when the errors were detected to level the playing field as well as allow other prequalified bidders who did not qualify the first time to be considered.
To this, Mtawali responded that even if the board had re-advertised, the other bidders did not meet the technical responsiveness criteria and would not have gotten a No Objection to sign the contract.
Following the explanation from the board, Committee chairperson Harry Mkandawire said the committee was more than convinced that there was nothing untoward in the awarding of the contract price at $14.7 million. n