Tender Board official caught on camera removing documents; police called in
A senior official of National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) is in deep trouble after an attempt was made to tamper with a bid document.
The police have now been called in and the official, a Senior Procurement Officer, could very well face charges.
It would be news that the NPTAB could do without as over the years, the entity has been facing accusations of corruption in its ranks.
Staffers were accused of colluding with contractors, tipping them off of what other contractors bid and even tampering with submitted documents.
Since coming to office in 2015, the Coalition Government, which was in opposition then, was critical of NPTAB. It made a number of changes, including to personnel and board members.
Located in the Ministry of Finance compound, Main Street, the entity is charged with handling contracts for Government that are above a certain amount- $10M for goods and services and $20M for construction projects.
This particular case is threatening to undo the squeaky-clean image that the NPTAB and Government would have wanted.
While a senior official, Mark Bender, referred questions to Berkley Wickham, head of the Tender Board, Kaieteur News was told that the matter was exposed about two weeks ago.
Well-placed sources disclosed that two weeks ago, bids were opened as normal for several ministries and agencies.
The bids are opened in front of representatives of the contractors and ministries and agencies. It is also done in the presence of media personnel.
It was explained that the bid documents are stamped, recorded and stored in a secured area in the NPTAB building.
One day after the bids were opened, the officer in question reportedly asked permission, and accessed the room.
Kaieteur News was told that it was highly unusual for officers themselves to enter the room.
Rather, if they want information, they would request and they would have to sign for the information or documents.
The matter was immediately reported to officials and a quiet internal investigation was launched.
The video recordings indicated the officer entered the room and was seen stuffing documents in his pocket. He reportedly dropped these documents behind a flower pot.
He was later seen picking them up and leaving the compound with it. Video recordings indicated that the documents were returned next day.
It was explained that under regulations three copies of tenders/bid documents are normally submitted by contractors.
The NPTAB officials investigating the matter reportedly had their attention drawn to a Ministry of Public Infrastructure tender of more than $100M.
On closer examination, it was found that the tender amount by the contractor was raised by more than $15M on two copies. The third copy however had a lower amount.
The officer under investigation apparently had no access to that document which was in another room, in the custody a senior manager.
The procurement officer, who has been one of the longest serving employees of NPTAB, and serves as a training personnel as well, was sent on immediate administrative leave.
Kaieteur News was told there was another incident last year where a recording was made where the staffer allegedly asked a contractor for money in return for information.
The police are said to be investigating.