Some bidders in the government’s K1.3 billion motorcycle supply tender stormed Ministry of Health offices to seek clarity after it was alleged the contractor was awarded to Farming and Engineering Services (FES), Nation on Sunday has established.
The scene at the ministry’s Community Health Science Unit (CHSU) on Monday followed a story in last week’s Nation on Sunday which exposed controversy surrounding the contract.
The tender is for procurement and supply of 56 motorcycles that are meant for the Malawi Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project.
The ministry’s procurement specialist Andrew Mopiha confirmed the bidders’ conduct, saying they gate-crashed a debrief meeting with two bidders who had booked in advance.
“A group of bidders came for a meeting. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that they were coming for such a meeting. The letter that we got was for a debrief with Creck Hardware and Luthando,” he said in a response to our questionnaire on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Mopiha said they were forced to cancel the debrief and agreed to arrange another meeting to address the bidders’ concerns.
“Now that the meeting was different because in a debrief you only discuss a bid of a specific bidder, we couldn’t proceed with the meeting.
“We agreed that we need our authorities to sanction the meeting. So we are consulting our superiors on the way forward,” he said.
The ministry, in a letter signed by Public Health Institute of Malawi acting director Dr Mathews Kagoli, withdrew the contract from FES last month, citing the delays to sign a contract.
But FES claimed it had issues it wanted ironed out before committing themselves to the deal.
The other sticking point is that some bidders of the contract number MW-CHSU-2322798, which was advertised earlier this year, are suspecting that the ministry did not issue notification of intention to award FES the contract as per public procurement requirements.
One of the bidders, who stormed the ministry’s offices and spoke on condition of anonymity, said his firm was disappointed with the handling of the tendering process.
“What came out in the press forced us to seek clarification on the status of the deal. As a public institution, we expected the ministry to follow the procedures,” the source said.
He further disclosed that the ministry, through Mopiha, informed them, during a prompt interaction at CHSU, that the tender had been cancelled.
“We are not convinced because we have heard reports that they want to award it to some firm. This is the reason we went to seek for clarification,” the source added.
According to the ministry, the motorcycles were set to be distributed to health surveillance assistants in health facilities.
“The Covid-19 project deals with emergency response and health systems preparedness. So, the motorcycles are not meant for Covid-19 only but systems strengthening and preparedness,” said Mopiha.