Auditor General Leigh Trotman is being challenged over concerns raised in his 2017 report on the procurement practices of the state-run Barbados Water Authority (BWA).
At issue are the findings regarding the acquisition of four water tanker trucks through lease or purchase at the height of the serious water shortages in the north and north-eastern parishes of the island back in 2015.
Trotman said that through a public tender, the BWA requested bids for the acquisition of the trucks to assist with its water distribution efforts throughout the country.
“Three firms submitted tenders. However, two firms did not meet the qualifying criteria for leasing and purchasing. The BWA’s Evaluation Committee nevertheless decided to examine the proposals of Firm 1 [Simpson Motors], which met the tender conditions for purchasing and leasing, as well as the proposals of firm 2 [SCL Sales and Services Inc], which did not supply a lease proposal as required by the tender,” the auditor general found.
However, a senior official with intimate knowledge of the process today provided Barbados TODAY with documentation which he said challenged those findings, which he described as misleading and lacking in all the facts.
The official contended that the documents, which comprise the official minutes of the Audit, Finance and Bids Committee meetings of the BWA of January 12, 2015 and February 5, 2015, were not in the possession of the auditor general when he conducted his audit and prepared his report.
“If the auditor general was in the possession of all of the records pertaining to the bid, he would have to acknowledge that all the bidding firms, namely Simpson Motors, SCL Sales and Services Inc and Huzier Trucks and Equipment, submitted all of the required documents when the bids were opened at the BWA on Monday, January 12, 2015 . . . [and] all the firms submitted offers for acquisition by purchase and leasing,” the top executive stated, while going on to blame the BWA’s management for not supplying Trotman with all of the records.
The source also argued that the minutes of the February 5, 2015 meeting clearly showed that the only firm whose bid was eliminated was Huzier Trucks and Equipment simply because it had offered left-hand drive water tanker trucks, contrary to the right-hand drive required by the water company, and it could not supply the shade of green required by the BWA.
Government’s chief audit officer had also reported that while the Evaluation Committee had recommended the award of the contract to Simpson Motors, the Audit, Finance and Tenders Committee requested that the two entities whose bids were considered, submit revised prices by February 2015.
Trotman found that Simpson Motors made a submission within the stipulated time frame and the revised price was disclosed at a board meeting on February 12, 2015, while SCL Sales and Services handed in its documented response March 13, 2015.
“The board recommended that the four tankers be purchased from firm 2 [SCL Sales and Services] which had submitted a lower bid the second time around,” he added in his executive summary.
But the source countered that the purchase price of Simpson Motors and SCL Sales and Services were above the BWA’s budget.
“If the BWA had sought to negotiate with only one of the compliant bidders [Simpson Motors] with an intention to obtain a lower price without giving the other compliant bidder a similar opportunity – as was recommended by management – the other compliant bidder would have been within his right to bring a legal claim against the BWA for unfair treatment in the public procurement of the water tanker trucks,” the senior official told Barbados TODAY.
“It is also instructive to note that the difference in the monthly lease cost proposed by Simpson Motors and SCL Sales and Services was a mere $162.16 per month per truck,” he contended.
When contacted, Dr Atlee Brathwaite, the BWA chairman at the time, told Barbados TODAY he was not in a position to comment since this would be a matter for management or Henry Barrow, then chairman of the Audit, Finance and Tenders Committee.
However, Brathwaite made it clear that as far as the board was concerned, everything was done according to the requirements of the bidding process.
Barbados TODAY was unable to reach Barrow.