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Procurement bid for 180,000 tablet PCs draws concern of irregularities

While six major contenders await the announcement of the results of the rebid process to supply the 180,000 tablet computers to be deployed in the upcoming national census program, complaints of irregularities and serious breach of government procurement procedures regarding first bid procedure have started to surface, it was learnt.

Following the public notice issued by the Central Statistical Agency (CSA) in collaboration with the Public Procurement and Property Disposal Services to procure some 180,000 tablet PCs for use in the upcoming fourth round of Ethiopian Population Census program, six bidding companies have submitted their terms of offer. Actually, the international procurement bid was floated for the second time after the cancelation of the first bid process.

Sources close to the matter told The Reporter that complaints were filed by the companies participating in the bid process on the account of allegation of violation of the procurement procedures regarding the first round of the bid. However, sources could not confirm whether the decision to rebid the procurement came as a result of the complaints which were filed by some these suppliers.

According to the same sources, technical evaluation documents from the first bid process were unusually and intentionally leaked to a handful of competing companies. Although some of these technical documents started to circulate among the biding companies after offers were submitted for the second-round of the bid, The Reporter sources indicated that the entire ordeal casts doubts on the whole bid process and one cannot be sure if the documents were leaked before the offers for second-round of bid were submitted. If that was the case, sources say, it would give a competitive edge to whoever got access to the technical evaluation documents in preparing their bid documents.

According to one of the technical documents The Reporter has obtained, companies such as ZTE, GEOSAS, Huawei, and Techno Lenovo and SAFEGRAND were some of the six companies which have submitted their offers and that they have been evaluated based on the offers they have provided.

It is from this procedure that some of the partaking companies have edged concerns for irregularities.

Having learnt that, The Reporter has approached Tabbit Ahmed, chairman of the technical evaluation committee. He denied CSA has anything to do with the procurement process. He argued that the committee he chairs is tasked to evaluate the technicalities of the procurement. He redirected the complaints saying the purchasing process is exclusively handled by the Public Procurement and Property Administration Agency. However, Tabbit said that all the companies have been contacted in an open meeting regarding whatever issues they have during the bid procedure. 

Negash Bonke, head of the compliant department at the agency, told The Reporter that complaints have been filed against CSA and the handling of the bid process. He opted not to give further details but confirmed the complaints have surely been submitted and are being processed. The bid procedure has been postponed recently and it is unclear whether the rebid has got to do with the complaints.