PFP faction suspects procurement fraud in awarding of district cleaning contracts

PFP faction suspects procurement fraud  in awarding of district cleaning contracts

PHILIPSBURG—The Party for Progress (PFP) faction in Parliament is requesting information from Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Egbert Doran regarding the 2022-2025 District Cleaning Tendering and Awarding Process. PFP believes there is reason to suspect fraud being committed.

A March 31, 2023, letter to the minister, signed by Members of Parliament (MPs) Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson said “there are valid concerns of fraud and/or corruption related to this tendering process, similar to the concerns expressed in the Ombudsman’s 2022 Systemic Investigation Report into the garbage collection tendering process.” This statement is based on the faction members having viewed the documentation under confidentiality rules of Parliament.

“In the Public meetings handling the country’s budget 2023, it was stated by the acting VROMI-minister, Finance Minister Ardwell Irion that the Council of Ministers approved the district cleaning tender on March 16,” PFP wrote to Doran on Friday. “In the meetings several documents including the SOAB report for the district cleaning tender, was requested by MPs. It was communicated by the acting VROMI-minister that the documents would be made available ‘ter inzage’ [for perusal, Ed.] by the secretary general of Parliament, as they were deemed to be confidential documents.”

Attached to the SOAB report was a memo from the acting department head of Infrastructure Management, the MPs noted. “After reviewing the documentation under confidentiality rules of Parliament, we believe there are valid concerns of fraud and/or corruption related to this tendering process.”

In light of this, the faction is requesting the SOAB report on the district cleaning for 2022-2025 to be delivered to Parliament for further study and perusal, as per article 69 of the Rules of Order. The faction also asks to receive the awarding advice from Infrastructure Management for the district cleaning for 2022-2025 showing the evaluations that were used for the granting of the contracts to the respective companies.

Other documents requested are the memo from the head of the department of Infrastructure Management on the SOAB-report for the district cleaning for 2022-2025 and the decision of the Council of Ministers of March 16th 2023 on the district cleaning 2022- 2025 as per the Minister of Finance’ statement in the budget public meeting.

Furthermore, PFP is requesting the National Decree (‘Landsbesluit’) signed by the governor for the district cleaning 2022-2025, the Terms of Reference for the tender for the district cleaning 2022-2025, as well as all evaluation forms for each company, per parcel, from each individual member of the evaluation committee and all memos from the members of the evaluation committee concerning the tender on the district cleaning for 2022-2025.

“Last but not least,” PFP intends to study the list of original disqualifications of companies that sent in non-compliant/non-winning proposals, as well as the reason for disqualification and the substantiation for any reversals.

In the June 2022 final report on the systemic investigation by the Ombudsman’s Office into the awarding of the 2021-2026 solid waste collection contracts, Ombudsman Gwendolien Mossel concluded based on the findings that the tendering and awarding process was “neither fair nor sufficiently transparent.”

She stated that “the application of certain provisions in the TOR [Terms of Reference, Ed.], particularly the requirement of the original business license based on the scope of the work tendered, and the pricing component disproportionally affected some contractors, while at the same time advantaged others. Even when it became clear that certain contractors could not live up to the requirements of the TOR, after the nomination but prior to the signing of the contracts, this was neglected by the ministry.”

Of the five companies awarded contracts by the Government of St. Maarten for the collection of solid waste from 2021 to 2026, two had originally been disqualified during the tendering process. However, they are currently under contract for a total sum of NAf. 9,689,971.65 during five years.

The Daily Herald

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