Auditor general maintains RADA breached procurement rules

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Auditor general maintains RADA breached procurement rules

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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AUDITOR General Pamela Monroe Ellis is standing by findings of a performance management audit of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) that the agency breached procurement guidelines, based on investigations carried out by her office, on its management of the Farm Road Rehabilitation Programme (FRRP) from 2014 to 2019.

According to the findings of the report, which was tabled in Parliament in October, the authority's process of selecting contractors was not always transparent or competitive.

The auditors said that of the 112 road rehabilitation contracts valued at $1.6 billion that were reviewed, RADA used the local competitive bidding methodology for only four contracts, valued at $90.8 million.

“Conversely, RADA utilised the limited tender methodology for 75 contracts valuing $1.04 billion,” the report said.

Monroe Ellis said RADA was unable to indicate the basis on which contractors were preselected for an invitation to bid on road rehabilitation contracts. Furthermore, she outlined that in six instances RADA used the limited tender methodology to award contracts, valuing $129.8 million, despite the procurement guidelines not being met, “thereby denying other qualified contractors the opportunity to participate in the procurement process”.

At yesterday's meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) at Gordon House, chief executive officer of RADA Peter Thompson explained that the contracts were put to tender at one value but the responses returned at higher values, from which the lowest bidders were selected.

Government member and St Catherine South Western Member of Parliament Everald Warmington argued that this was normal par for the course in works contracting.

But the auditor general said: “I have not been advised of the estimation provided by Mr Thompson here this morning [but] the finding, as it is remains, there was a breach – unless Mr Thompson can provide evidence to the contrary.”

“I know that the heads of agencies oftentimes can provide an explanation which may appear reasonable, but it is my responsibility to point out where there are breaches, and even where I may think it's reasonable, I cannot take it on myself to accept it because then I become complicit, and I will be called on to provide an explanation alongside the perpetrators of the act,“ added Monroe Ellis.

The probe also found that RADA utilised the direct procurement and emergency methodologies for 33 contracts, valuing $520.93 million, although the allowable circumstances permitting the direct and emergency procurement methodologies were not met.

Tender evaluation reports for the 112 contracts examined revealed no evidence that RADA assessed bidders to determine whether they met the minimum qualifying criteria in compliance with the Instruction to Bidders and Procurement Guidelines, the audit report said.

“We noted that RADA's due diligence process related to the selection of contractors was limited to the validity of the Tax Compliance Certificate and the National Contracts Commission, and selection was based on the lowest bid. RADA did not provide any evidence it conducted a pre-qualification exercise of potential bidders for limited tender contracts,” the report stated.

Among the reasons cited by RADA were the budgetary allocation for the farm road rehabilitation programme before the end of the financial year, and the impact of land slippage and deterioration of the road surface due to continuous rainfall. The agency also said the selected contractor was already mobilised and engaged on similar projects in the parish or neighbouring parishes, and that the contractors possessed the necessary expertise and capability to perform the works satisfactorily and within budget.


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