February 08, 2014 00:00 By Supinda na Mahachai
Company accused of bid rigging chosen as new supplier as Chinese firm pulls out
A new supplier has surprisingly emerged as a “winner” in the government’s One Tablet Per Child scheme after its winning offer was initially dismissed on suspicions of bid collusion.
Caretaker Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang yesterday announced that Supreme Distribution (Thailand) would be awarded the contract to deliver tablets for Zone 3.
Though the firm had bid the lowest price for the deal, it was rejected on grounds of possible bid-rigging. Only two firms had entered the e-auction for Zone 3, which involves the procurement of 426,683 tablet computers for Mathayom 1 students in the Central and Southern regions. The Bt1.24 billion offered by Supreme Distribution was about Bt5 million lower than the standard price.
The relevant authorities then decided to cancel the e-auction for Zone 3, while allowing the procurement process for the other three zones to go ahead.
Supreme Distribution appealed against the cancellation.
However, it was not until the two successful bidders for Zones 1, 2 and 4 apparently failed to honour the purchase contracts that the Education Ministry decided to review its decision.
So far, no tablets have been delivered in Zones 1 and 2, while only a few hundred of the 400,000 ordered for Zone 4 have been delivered.
“We believe the appeal by Supreme Distribution is reasonable. Though the price quoted in the e-auction for Zones 1 and 2 were very low, the suppliers failed to deliver,” Chaturon said.
Chinese firm Shenzhen Yitao Intelligent Control was the winner for Zones 1 and 2, but it has yet to make any deliveries since the purchase contract was signed in September. Last month, the firm said it wanted to cancel the contract.
Chaturon said the issue had been discussed at a meeting with relevant officials yesterday.
“We have resolved that the Office of the Basic Education Commission [Obec] will officially terminate the contract [with Shenzhen Yitao] with effect from February 10,” he said.
Despite the termination of contract, the company will still be fined Bt2.3 million a day – from December 26 to February 10 – for failing to deliver. December 26 was the delivery deadline.
Chaturon said the Education Ministry would also sue the Chinese firm for damages caused to the project. “We will ask it to pay the difference between its winning price and the price offered by the new winning bidder,” he said.
He added that a new auction would be called using the same terms and conditions, and should be completed in a few months. The tablets should be delivered to students by June.