The Centre for Mindset Change (CMC), a local human rights organization, has threatened to disrupt the re-tendering process for the building of the Nsanje-Marka Railway Line, believing that it will allow Mota Engil Africa another chance to compete for the contract. This comes after the Ministry of Transport and Public Works said on Thursday last week that it will re-tender the contract after it was revealed that the bids had already expired when they convened to reconstitute an Evaluations Committee following the Anti-Corruption Bureau‘s decision (ACB).
The Bureau had previously terminated Mota-Engil Africa’s MK48, 244, 861, 524.98 contract for the Nsanje-Marka Rail Project and placed restrictions on the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, just days after CMC gave the government a seven-day deadline to cancel the contract, citing a lack of transparency in the way it was awarded. The ACB further suggested that the contract be terminated and that the ministry be given 15 days to re-evaluate bids, choose a new contractor, and form a new Evaluation Committee. However, this did not happen, and Jacob Hara, the newly appointed Minister of Transport and Public Works blamed the bids expiring.
Possible Re-evaluation of Bids for the Nsanje-Marka Rail Project
Re-evaluation of the bids for the Nsanje-Marka Rail Project would be impossible, according to Hara, because the bid validity time had elapsed, and doing so would be in violation of Regulation 48 of the Public Procurement Act. A procuring and disposing entity must set a validity period for bidding documents that is long enough to allow the procuring and disposing entity to complete the evaluation and comparison of bids, as well as obtain all necessary approvals, so that the procurement contract can be awarded within that time frame, according to Regulation 48 (1). If, before the expiration of the validity period of bids, the procuring and disposing body requests bidders to extend the validity term of their offers, it should send such a request to all bidders, according to Regulation 48 (2). On the other hand, CMC is concerned that the procedure would allow another chance to Mota Engil Africa, which is accused of employing backdoor methods to obtain the contracts.
Executive Director Philip Kamangirah of the Centre stated on Friday that his group has already contacted the Ministry of Transport and Public Works with a copy of the letter submitted to ACB, expressing their displeasure with the ministry’s decision to re-tender Nsanje-Marka Rail Project’s contract. The regulation, Kamangirah claimed, is silent on whether or not the bid validity time can be extended after it has expired. CMC executive director Phillip Kamangirah wrote in a letter to the Secretary of Transportation and Public Works dated December 23, 2021, and signed by him that the corporation had contacted its legal experts. He stated that they are confident that the ministry’s justifications are not genuine but that they are useful in addressing the flaws of the bidder to whom they had meant to give the contract in the first place.