Security ministry, new car dealers headed to court over $320-m JCF contract

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THE Ministry of National Security and three of the country’s major new car dealers appear to be headed to court to determine if the Government’s procurement rules were breached over a $320-million motor vehicle award for new police cars to one dealer. Kingston Industrial Garage (KIG), one of the three dealers, this week signalled it was preparing to take legal action after the ministry’s procurement office insisted it did everything right in accepting two bids from the Stewart’s Automotive Group, although telling suppliers they could only submit one bid.

«We will be reviewing the matter with the New Car Dealers Association of Jamaica (NCDAJ) and their legal team with the intention of challenging this [matter] further,» Jeffrey Panton, managing director of KIG, wrote Douglas Stewart, procurement director at the national security ministry.

At the end of the bidding process, which opened in June this year, the ministry awarded the full contract for 62 pickups, valued at $145 million and 43 SUVs, costing $175 million, to two companies under the Stewart’s Automotive Group — Stewart’s Auto Sales and Silver Star Motors.

One contract for 62 Mitsubishi L200s went to Stewart’s Auto Sales and the second for 43 Mitsubishi Outlanders went to Silver Star Motors, both dealerships under Stewart’s Automotive. Silver Stars Motors is the dealer for Mercedes Benz.

But the NCDAJ, comprising Toyota Jamaica, the ATL Automotive Group, and KIG, and representing almost two-thirds of new vehicle sales in Jamaica, is contending that based on the Public Procurement Standard Bidding Document, no supplier should submit more than one bid.

NCDAJ said that because of the stipulation, its members were placed at a disadvantage, not knowing they could have made bids from more than one brand under a single ownership, as was accepted from Stewart’s Automotive.

The ministry’s Douglas Stewart responded in a news release Monday that: «The ministry wishes to state that Silver Star Motors and Stewart’s Auto Sales were able to demonstrate that they are separate entities by submitting two separate and valid Public Procurement Commission registrations, formerly known as National Contracts Commission certificates and two separate and valid Tax Compliance Certificates.»

«â€¦After a thorough assessment by the designated oversight approval bodies, Stewart’s Auto Sales and Silver Star Motors scored 100 per cent and 99 per cent, respectively, for their submissions.»

KIG’s Panton, in his letter to the ministry, rejected that explanation, saying: «When the ministry included the clauses so as to disallow any one entity from being awarded both lots (contract), I presume the intention was just that.

«Therefore I am baffled by your response, as regardless of what Silver Star and Stewart’s presented, the simple fact is that in both cases it is the same brand, Mitsubishi. There is only one dealer in Jamaica for Mitsubishi, and further, both entities’ bidding share the same shareholders and management.

«It would seem quite obvious that this was the very scenario the clauses were included to protect against.»

For its part, the NCDAJ, under the signature of John Ralston, chairman, declared: «We cannot believe that a bid evaluation committee, properly empanelled and qualified to consider matters related to vehicle procurement, would not know which new car dealer sells what brands in Jamaica.

«For that matter, if there were any doubt as to which new car dealerships were registered for which brands, the Trade Board with whom all dealerships are registered, could have been consulted to provide this information to the ministry.

«â€¦We have advised the Ministry of National Security that our concerns have not been sufficiently responded to and immediately warrants a further and more wholesome response.»

— Desmond Allen

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