NAO Advises GT Board to Adhere to GPPA Act

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The National Audit Office (NAO) has recommended that the Gambia Tourism Board (GT Board) adhere to the Gambia Public Procurement Act at all times.

The NAO made this recommendation in its management letter on the audit of Procurement and Financial Transactions for the Construction of Eco-Tourism Camps/Lodges, on the Award of a contract to a company with no experience in constructing Eco Lodges.

The audit recommended, “The GT Board management should adhere to the dictates of the GPPA Act at all times. The contract committee members should give explanations for awarding a higher score to Lerr Group even though it has not conducted this type of project in the past.”

On its findings, the NAO explained that the GPPA Act 2014 Section 22 (2) states, “In order to enter into a procurement contract, a bidder shall demonstrate, and the procuring organization shall positively determine that the bidder qualifies for the award of the procurement contract by having the necessary technical, financial and ethical capacity.”

The NAO explained that their review of bid documents submitted by bidders together with minutes of the contract committee held on Monday, 4th March 2019, revealed that Lerr Group and all shortlisted bidders had no past experience in undertaking an Eco-Tourism project in the past.

On the review of the contract committee minutes, NAO said: “We noted that the evaluation team awarded 80 percentage points (20 scores out of 25) for possessing key personnel and having past experience in conducting this type of project. However, there is no evidence provided to show that the company has successfully carried out similar projects in the past.”

In addition, the audit said the comments from contract committee members noted that despite Lerr Group getting the highest score I cannot justify the bidding price of 24 million against 15 million.

The Audit Office said this is the same procedure that is followed during the scoring that bought vehicles. In the same vein, it added all shortlisted companies have not shown any past experience in ecotourism projects.

“Review of the evaluation score sheet revealed that Lerr Group was ranked highest despite its lack of experience in the construction of Eco-tourism camps or lodges. In addition, the use of heavy machines by Lerr Group for site clearing did not preserve the ecosystem and was not in line with eco-tourism, a key consideration in the concept document of the project,” said NAO.

The audit said the lack of experience in Eco-tourism by Lerr Group poses a high risk of the contractor not implementing the requirement of Eco-tourism.

“There is a risk of bias against other bidders and the contract committee awarded the contract to Lerr Group based on personal relationship even though it does not possess the requisite experience in executing this type of project thus stifling fair competition. There is a risk that the objectivity of the contract committee members is impaired,” said NAO.

The audit recommended, “The GT Board management should adhere to the dictates of the GPPA Act at all times. The contract committee members should give explanations for awarding a higher score to Lerr Group even though it has not conducted this type of project in the past.”

“We totally disagreed with the Auditors’ view on the above query being that the bidding document does not indicate any limitation to the experience in building Eco-Camps,” management dismisses the assessment in its response.

It further stated that section 8.2 of the qualification criteria in the bidding document clearly listed the minimum qualifications for award of contract and there was no mention of restriction limiting to experience in Eco camps construction.

Management added that the contracts committee comprises Directors of the Office which included the then Director of Product Development who had a strong background in Ecotourism and in which the Eco camp concept originated as well as the SPU who all have vast experiences in tourism and all of them have undergone GPPA training on procurement related activities.

Management added: “They have independently reviewed and evaluated the bidding documents of the bidders. Thus,Lerr Group emerged as the winner of the bid after having the highest score points in the evaluation process which was approved by the GPPA.”