Agriculture Ministry debunks KN Articles on Collusion and Retendering

– Calls for Withdrawal of Libelous Articles

The Ministry of Agriculture’s National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) wishes to respond to misleading and damaging recent missives in the Kaieteur News titled “Collusion with Agriculture Ministry bids leads to unfair competition…repeated retendering gives edge to preferred bidders, proves costly for others” dated September 18th, 2021 and “Gov’t retenders four times for item supplied by one company” dated September 19th, 2021.

The recklessness of the Kaieteur News is compounded by the placement of the photographs of the Honourable Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha, and the Chairman of the NDIA, Lionel Wordsworth as part of the article clearly intending to convey to its readers that these two persons are in some way connected with the tendering process about which the articles relate. 

Kaieteur News must know that by virtue of the Procurement Act 2003, public procurement of goods and services up to a certain limit is done exclusively by the NPTAB, a body that is independent, separate and apart from both the Ministry of Agriculture and the NDIA. The NPTAB has its own employees and the BIDS received through the tendering process are assessed by evaluators drawn from across the public sector by the NPTAB. Indeed, no evaluators are drawn from the sector whose BID is being evaluated. In summary, therefore, the Ministry of Agriculture nor the NDIA plays any role whatsoever in the tendering of contracts.

If the Kaieteur News had taken the time to do its research rather than rush to publication, the newspaper would have realized that the Hon. Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha and the Chairman of the NDIA, Mr. Lionel Wordsworth has nothing to do with the tendering and acceptance of bids, retendering or rejection of bids.

The tendering of bids, acceptance of bids and subsequent award of bids are done through the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) once it is above a prescribed limit. All these projects named in the articles are above that prescribed limit and therefore falls under the ambit and control of the NPTAB and not the Ministry or the NDIA.

As it relates to retendering and rejection of bids, the newspaper should have taken a closer look at the Procurement Act 2003. Section 40 of the Procurement Act 2003 states that “(1) Subject to approval by the National Board, if so specified in the solicitation documents, the appropriate board may reject all tenders at any time prior to the acceptance of a tender. The appropriate board shall upon request, communicate to any supplier or contractor that submitted a tender the grounds for its rejection of all tenders, but is not required to justify those grounds.

(2) The appropriate board shall incur no liability, solely by virtue of its invoking subsection (1), towards suppliers or contractors that have submitted tenders.

(3) Notice of the rejection of all tenders shall be given promptly to all suppliers or contractors that submitted tenders.

Therefore, based on the above, the Ministry of Agriculture nor the NDIA cannot request retendering or rejection of bids. It is only the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) that can do so. The NDIA only provides the engineers estimate which is published along with the tenders for bids. Therefore, it cannot be said that the NDIA (the budget agency) has been turning down competitive bids as is being claimed in the September 19th, 2021 article.   

Further, if an aggrieved bidder wishes to know the ground for the rejection of the bid, they can contact the NPTAB for such information. As it relates to the steel sheet piles project, only NPTAB would be able to provide the answers for the rejection.

Given the above, the Ministry of Agriculture and the NDIA is calling on the editors of the newspaper to recall and withdraw its articles which are libelous since it contains defamatory statements leveled against the Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Chairman of the NDIA, Mr. Lionel Wordsworth.

The Kaieteur Newspaper should also note that the Head of the NDIA is not the Chairman, who is involved with policy, but the Chief Executive Officer, who is responsible for day to day operations of the entity.

It is this type of reckless journalism that has landed KN in so many lawsuits that the publishers stated in an article recently that they may have to get mortgage financing to pay the number of judgment debts awarded against them in court.