Published On: Thu, Jun 1st, 2023

MP Peterson criticizes process for public tenders

PHILIPSBURG — Public tenders falling under the authority of the Ministry of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) have once again become a bone of contention. In 2022 the Ombudsman concluded in a report about the tendering of solid waste collecting contracts that these tenders were “neither fair nor sufficiently transparent.”
This time the questions focus on the tender for the demolition of the former government administration building at Clem Labega Square. On top of that, PFP-MP Raeyhon Peterson issued a press release that criticizes the tendering process.

According to information reaching StMaartenNews.com, the highest bid for the demolition of the old government administration building was submitted by a company called Limit Less Trucking: 663,684 guilders or $370,773); the lowest bid from Let Us NV was just 265,893 guilders ($148,544). Yet the work was awarded to Limit Less Trucking.

Even the bid by Windward Roads was way below the highest offer: 466,879 guilders ($260,826), while Rising Star bid (to no avail) for 451,094 guilders ($252,008) on the project. “I guess the minister is in need of campaign money,” one observer noted.

MP Peterson notes in his press statement that various companies have approached the Ombudsman because they believed tenders did not take place in a fair and transparent manner. “These concerns echo the concerns of the Ombudsman in her systemic investigation report of June 27, 2022 about the tender for solid waste collection contracts for 2022-2026.”

“You would think that the Ombudsman report would have motivated the minister to be more cautious and transparent with future legal tenders, especially given the grave concerns highlighted by the high council,” Peterson said. “Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.”

Peterson said that there are similarities between the handling of tenders exposed in the report and the current approach to other tenders.

The PFP-faction posed question to VROMI-Minister Doran on April 3 and it sent a reminder on May 10, but it is still waiting for answers. The press release mentions two memos dated May 15. The first one, written by the acting head of infrastructure management was used to justify the minister’s decision. The second memo was written by Minister Doran; it explains why he no longer needs a national decree (signed by the governor) to execute tenders. One day after these memos the tender (for the demolition of the old government administration building) was quickly approved by the Council of Ministers, Peterson wrote.

The PFP has been asking Minister Doran forever for the establishment of a national decree containing general measures (generally referred to as LBham) for the government’s tendering process. “That keeps getting put on the backseat. The longer you don’t regulate that very important process, the more these questionable decisions go unnoticed.”

Peterson furthermore refers to the public tender for the construction of a new parliament building. This tender is looking for a candidate to design, finance, build, lease, operate, manage and transfer the project.

“Since the law is lacking the LBham, is it the intention of the minister to outsource everything to make sure that the money goes to the right people and to ensure that his obvious pre-determined choices are secure?”

Peterson points out that evaluation after the fact of tenders by SOAB do not give them any legitimacy. “The SOAB evaluates numbers; it does not evaluate processes and procedures. Thus, the process of decision-making within all departments in the Ministry of VROMI can fall into question in many cases, as the Ombudsman also reported.”

Peterson furthermore notes that, according to the tender, all the work related to the construction of the new parliament building, should go to one company. “This raises the question whether the ministry is trying to drive through its previously shared vision for the building. It seems the goal is to distribute as many tenders as possible, using the March 15 memo to justify the lack of a national decree and to use all this work as leverage for the coming (election) campaign.”


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