by Roy R. Morris
Suppliers of goods and services are accusing some of the island’s leading businesses and their principals of “dishonest” practices in order to push up their profits during the current recession.
A number of small and medium sized business operators told Barbados TODAY that it was now the routine for a number of big businesses to ask them to bid for work or submit proposals, only to find them being used for projects that were then executed internally or by “friends” of the company.
“What they will ask you to do, and I am talking about supposedly respectable companies, is submit a proposal for some job they plan to execute,” one professional explained.
“But they don’t just want an outline, they want details. So you go in, do all kinds of assessments, you spend countless hours on the job, you get other professionals to provide drawings, you contact suppliers overseas to get specs and quantities. Then after you have spent countless hours and thousands of dollars you learn that someone close to management has got the job, but they never submitted anything.
“Sometimes you will enter a project and recognise that everything about it conforms to your proposal, but it is being done internally. Such practices are dishonest. They are wrong.”
Another operator with an engineering background spoke of confronting the head of a business who took such a course after they had spent a considerable sum on a proposal, and “all he did was laugh”.
“That can’t be right,” he said. “That can’t be honest. Right now we have taken a decision that we will not provide anyone with that kind of detail at the early stage, even if it means we don’t qualify, because it is costly.”
In another instance an operator told Barbados TODAY that his company had been invited to provide an alternative energy solution for a major organisation that was building a new headquarters, with the specification that all details, including drawings had to be included, but “all they gave us was the roof space we had to use”.
“Can you imagine the amount of work we had to put into such a job, the thousands of dollars it would have cost us? You ask them who got the job?” he added.
“It is clear that they never intended for the job to go in our direction. As far as we are concerned their aim was to get a workable plan in their hands without having to pay for it, and that is now widespread in Barbados.”
According to the operator, it appeared that existing legislation offered little protection for person such as him once a proposal was delivered.
“We were asked by [a Bridgetown business] to submit a detailed plan for a job they wanted done,” a contractor told Barbados TODAY. “They literally ran us down saying they wanted to get the job out of the way and we went out of our way to work with them. We gave them what they wanted in May and heard nothing from them afterward.
“What we found out afterward was that he gave the job to his cousin, who no doubt executed it with our designs.”
Questioned about this development,
, advised business operators to recognise that such dishonest practices were “myopic” since word was sure to get around in a country as small as Barbados.
“You know, you can fool me once, but I will not let you do it a second time. It is never good business sense to burn your bridges.”
At the same time however, he noted that companies had a duty to shareholders to get the most competitive bid, adding that no one should assume that submission of a bid meant they would get the job.
He said while he understood how such a practice would be upsetting, he advised that operators could find themselves in a catch-22 situation since the decision not to bid would also rule them out of contention for the job.