The controversial Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (IFMIS) contract has been awarded to the consortium, Techno Brain Tanzania, which offered the lowest price to undertake the project for 125 government offices.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MoFEC), who is running the endeavor, announced its decision in a letter issued on September 28 to the winner. The process has been disputed causing the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association to become involved by responding to the claim of another company that rejected the bidding process.
In the past few months MoFEC and Transnational Computer Technology (TCT), a company based in the US and run by Ethiopian Diaspora, quarreled over the recurrent service of its pilot project and the latest bid that opened on August 3.
TCT filed a complaint to top officials at MoFEC and Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), Deputy Prime Minister for Finance and Economic Cluster, and Minister of Communication and Information Technology claiming that some officials at MoFEC were abusing their power.
TCT refused to submit its offer as per the bid document, and instead filed a claim to the Public Procurement and Property Administration Agency (PPPAA) asking that they become involved in the issue. However their request was rejected through a letter signed August 30 by the Director of Procurement and Asset Disposal Complaints Review Directorate and Property Administration of PPPAA, Negash Bonke.
Although TCT bought the bid document, it refused to participate in the bid claiming that a member of MoFEC bidding evaluation committee discriminated and defamed it (TCT) thus breaking the procurement and consumer protection law.
TCT said it disagreed with the clause in the request for proposal (RFP) pertaining to the bid evaluation where both technical and financial offers will be evaluated equally with 50% marks for each.
This, TCT claims is contrary to its previous bidding experience during the IFMIS pilot project it completed in 2010. Hence, TCT submitted its complaints to the PPPAA stating these issues, but the directorate discarded the request that the board reviews the case.
In the letter it sent to TCT, the director gave three reasons as to why the latter’s claim could not be entertained by the board.
It pointed out that TCT did not provide a renewed license. It added that its claim regarding the technical and financial evaluation process was not filed appropriately as it has to be filed to a higher body of MoFEC.
And the grievance that all the documents provided for bidders were not given to TCT “is not related to the bid process,” the letter noted.
TCT complained that the Director of the Information System Administration Directorate of MoFEC Mesfin Workineh sent a defamatory email to participating companies weeks before the bid opening date. Mesfin is also a member of the bid evaluation committee.
TCT argued that this is against the Trade Practice and Consumers’ Protection Proclamation.
Mesfin’s email ridiculed TCT’s complaint and insisted other bidders continue with the process.
The email copy that Capital obtained stated that “it is a simple nightmare and illusion of the Transnational Computer Technology (TCT Company), to be the sole owner of the project without any competition, which is contrary to the government’s rules and regulations.”
The claim TCT submitted to PPPAA with regards to the bid evaluation criteria which equally appraises the technical and financial offer is against the Government Procurement and Property Administration Proclamation No. 649/2009.
The stated proclamation article 59 sub article 3, D notes: “technical specifications of the goods, works and services shall be compatible with national requirements, and conform as far as possible with international standards or standards widely used in international trade.”
“As per the stated article, the technical evaluation has to carry more weight than the financial criteria,” Mengistu Araya, a representative of TCT argued.
According to pundits, these kinds of national projects have to consider capability and experience over expenses.
TCT further reiterated that it had submitted a renewed license, even though it was not necessary. “And the directorate does not have the right to refuse to submit our claim to the board,” Mengistu added.
Meanwhile, on September 26, the legal department of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association, which is one of the board members of the Procurement and Asset Disposal Complaints Review and Decision Setting Board wrote to the PPPAA indicating that for the benefit of the public the agency should investigate the company’s complaints.
The board has four members including the private wing represented by the Federal Chamber of Commerce, and Alemayehu Gujo, State Minister of MoFEC and chairperson of the board, Mohamed Abdurrahman and Semret Girmay, who are both members.
TCT has also asked the agency to disqualify the board chairperson from being part of the team evaluating the claim.
In its complaints filed to Abdulaziz Mohammed, Minister of MoFEC and other relevant government bodies including the Prime Minister, TCT has accused the state minister and other top officials at the ministry including Musa Mohammed, head of the project office of violating procedures pertaining to good governance.
“MoFEC officials are controlling the agency, so our claim did not get a proper response that is why we went to the Federal Chamber,” Mengistu claimed.
To tackle the lack of good governance that the ruling party admitted was a major challenge the government is expected to reshuffle the cabinet in the coming weeks when the parliament reconvenes.
As per the award letter Techno Brain will manage the project at a cost of 419 million birr.