In the latest on the alleged unfairly awarded printing works of the education ministry worth almost Nu 35mn, winning bidders have stepped-up to defend themselves.
Previously, accusations were made against the companies who won the bid for the printing works in which one of the strongly mentioned point was that most of them outsourced works outside Bhutan since they do not have a proper set-up. This is against the printing rules in the country.
Four out of the six companies who competed for the tender which are KMT Press, Galing printers, Rigpa Printing press and Phama Printers were awarded the printing works.
The proprietor of Galing Printers Kinga said that these allegations are baseless.
He said his firm is set up with all the proper requirements. H e also said that the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) should have an agency or a division which will inspect the establishments before issuing a valid printing license.
The BICMA chief of media Lakshuman Chhetri said that BICMA currently does have a unit to do all these things while an education official told The Bhutanese that it’s not the ministry’s responsibility to inspect or monitor whether the bidders are taking printing works outside the country.
A letter or a government order issued by the Trade ministry in 2007, states “the concerned agencies ,(Ministry of Education) MoE, are suppose to check and monitor whether the bidders have an established set up in the country and also to inspect whether the winning bidders are sending their printing works done outside the country.”
The KMT press, one of the winning bidders got the contract to print 20 titles out of more than 200 titles. KMT press bid Nu 40mn but was awarded only 20 titles which are worth Nu 3mn.
KMT owner Mani Dorji denied all allegations of having outsourced printing works.
The fourth winning bidder, Phama could not be contacted.
Some bidders like the Kuensel were rejected because they were not able to fulfill all the specifications in the tender document.
The printing manager Pema Wangchuk said, “I don’t understand why they (MoE) made it compulsory to have all the specifications in the tender document. I think they are also confused”.
The printing machines according to Pema Wangchuk are of three types in Bhutan; single color, two colors and the four colors. The four color printer is supposedly better than the other two.
He said there are only two firms owning this machine, Kuensel and Phama.
The other two machines can do an equally fair job but the duration in printing is the only difference.
Asked about the MoE’s expertise to inspect the quality of printing machines, Chief Administrative officer Karchung Tshering said “we have a committee who looks into this but we do lack trained experts in this field”.
He said that the ministry is in discussions with regards to this with the Royal Civil Service Commission. “We feel it is crucial to have experts in these fields in the long run,” he said.
An education ministry official said the chairman of the Bhutan Observer who co-owns the Lhazin press visited the ministry and accepted Lhazin press’s mistake and dismissed the allegations made on the ministry earlier by the CEO of Bhutan Observer Phuntsho Wangmo.
Earlier Phuntsho Wangmo said, her bid was disqualified because it did not meet the earnest money deposit (EMD) requirements which she said was the Druk Punjab National Bank (DPNB)’s mistake since it issued a guarantee letter in the name of Bhutan Trade Link International instead of Lhazin Printers.
She said that both the companies are under a same signatory and should have been considered. While the DPNB had sent a second guarantee letter as a clarification for the first one dated 10 July, 2012. But it was submitted only by 20 July, 2012 and was too late.
The tender was opened on 11 July.
Nevertheless the Lhazin press proprietor said they have talked to experts on this matter and was of the view that considering the amount of money the government had to spend and also their bid being the lowest, “it should had been given a room for re-consideration”.
Following the bid several allegations were made against the winning bidders for taking their works done outside the country.
Among them the proprietor of Lhazin press Phuntsho Wangmo said, “People are complaining that Rigpa is taking their printing works done outside the country”.
However the Rigpa proprietor refused to comment on this issue.