The MAJORITY of the Public Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) complained, in writing, that the Ministry of National Security’s CCTV procurement process of September 2018 was “irretrievably compromised”.
Criticism of the department’s CCTV procurement process came in a letter written by former TSTT CEO Ronald Walcott dated September 17, 2018 to retired Colonel George Robinson, then Director of the Strategic Services Agency ( SSA).
Walcott’s letter was copied to then-National Security Minister Stuart Young, former public services minister Robert Le Hunte, former TSTT chairman Robert Mayers and procurement manager at SSA .
Walcott’s letter said the request for proposals process for the reengineering and expansion of the National Security Network was due to close at 1:30 p.m. on September 7, 2018.
Bids from TSTT, Digicel and Cable & Wireless Communications (Flow) were received before the deadline. But at 1:48 p.m. on the day of the deadline, the bidders received an email from SSA’s procurement department notifying the three firms that a time extension had been approved for submission of proposals. The new deadline has been set for September 21, 2018. This email arrived 18 minutes after the deadline for closing the bidding process.
According to Walcott’s letter: “Digicel, in particular, noted that the technical bids from Digicel and other bidders who had submitted them before the deadline, had been opened.
“Almost simultaneously with the Digicel email, the SSA procurement department sent an email to bidders at 2:32 p.m. stating that “the opening process was handled by the ministry” and that the extension of the bid deadline of the proposals was not communicated (presumably to ministry officials) in a timely manner and, as such, ‘[r]unfortunately, the extension should be withdrawn”.
Walcott’s letter said there were conflicting emails and letters about whether the time extension had been withdrawn. It was removed, according to an email from the procurement manager at the Department of National Security, who wrote: “[O]n the recommendation of the Director of the Strategic Services Agency, the Chairman of the Special Tenders Committee agreed to postpone the closing date for tenders from September 7, 2018 to September 21, 2018, 1:30 p.m.…. Official correspondence on this subject will follow.
In the letter, Walcott said, “A complete contradiction of communications to bidders is clear evidence that the SSA has acknowledged that the communication to bidders of the time extension granted was too late.”
The former CEO of TSTT also had a problem with the fact that the company’s technical offer had been opened.
“TSTT picked up their packages on Wednesday September 12, 2018 and noted that their technical submission had been opened as previously advised by Digicel in the email referenced in paragraph 2 above,” according to Walcott.
His letter then stated: “In light of all of the above, the tender process for the re-engineering and expansion of the National Security CCTV Network has been irretrievably compromised, and any further progress of this tender tender is manifestly unfair.
“A proper procurement procedure dictates that all bidders are given a fair opportunity to submit proposals in accordance with the procedure described in the RFP to which they are responding. It therefore follows that any extension of the deadline for submission of proposals must be communicated to all bidders well before the deadline date and time, and most certainly before the opening of bids. It should be noted that the extension of the initial deadline from August 30 to September 7, 2018 was communicated nine (9) days before the initial deadline.
“TSTT wishes to register its strongest objection to its technical bid being opened prior to the granting of an extension of time, in circumstances where information about its bid may be presumed to be public knowledge, which immediately compromises its bid. .”
TSTT called on the Department of National Security and/or the Strategic Services Agency to:
• Withdraw informal and formal correspondence and communications to bidders informing them of an extension of time for submission of responses to the RFP;
• Provide TSTT with a list of all parties that have submitted proposals by the closing of the tender at 1:30 p.m. on September 7, 2018;
• Provide TSTT with a copy of documented SSA and/or Ministry procurement policies and procedures, with specific reference to granting and communicating an extension to the RFP closing date/time , the tender closing process and the opening and registration of submitted proposals; and
• Cancel the tender process due to the procedural errors described above and issue a new, full tender that addresses the concerns raised by TSTT in previous correspondence to allow for a full technical and financial submission by all potential bidders.
During a press conference on April 14, 2022, opposition MP Roodal Moonilal indicated that the DP process was not canceled and replaced with a new DP, but concluded with the awarding a contract to a multinational called Johnson Controls, which failed to submit a bid in the September 2018 tender.
Energy Minister Stuart Young, who was national security minister from August 6, 2018 to April 18, 2021, did not respond to a WhatsApp message asking him to confirm the contract had been awarded to Johnson Controls.
The police called
In a WhatsApp interview with the Trinidad Express published on April 13, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the government had stopped awarding a CCTV data connectivity solution contract from October 2021 to the company. Irish Digicel.
Attorney General Reginald Armor has been asked to conduct a review of the process and report to Cabinet.
The Prime Minister told the Express: ‘When Cabinet found out where they were going, a request was made to see details of the process which led to the concerns you also expressed. The documents were submitted and it was out of dissatisfaction and concern that the matter was stopped and sent to the GA for his opinion and advice.
“It is not the first time that we have had a problem with the attempt to award a contract in this ministry. The police had to be called to find the “lost” documents.
Last Sunday the Sunday Express asked the Prime Minister if he was referring to the 2018 RFP process when he referenced the police call.
In response, Dr Rowley said: “The reference to the Fraud Squad I made concerned the mysterious disappearance of certain key documents relevant to the procurement process at the Department of National Security / Trinidad Police Service. and-Tobago.”
Role of the SSA
Walcott’s September 2018 letter was addressed to the former director of the SSA, which is T&T’s intelligence collection agency, the letter was copied to the SSA procurement manager and it mentions the procurement department of the SSA five times.
Last Sunday, the Sunday Express asked Prime Minister Rowley if he could confirm that the SSA was also in charge of the 2021 procurement process.
The Prime Minister’s response was: “The purchase of cameras has been, and is, a matter handled by the Ministry of National Security and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
“The SSA is a user and advisory agency committed to information gathering in the broadest sense.”