Printers call unfair tactics in quotations, ministry claims it was awarded on just terms and conditions

Of late tender-issues seem to have set the norm for finger-pointing and allegations. The most recent to join the bandwagon involves the invitation of quotations by the Education ministry to print text books worth almost Nu 35mn.

The tender was awarded to Rigpa printing press and Galing printers.

Post-tender process and quotations, allegations and accusations are rife that the whole deal has not exactly gone down synergic with the book.

The cornerstone of all printing rules, which the alleging parties say was overridden by the education ministry lay in the simple deed that printing works should not be done outside Bhutan or by foreign entities outside the country.

In the present scramble of printing parties, the winners of the quotations have been alleged to print in India in the event that they do not have proper base established in Bhutan.

This was alleged by parties involved in the quotations and backed by most local printers.

Six bidders competed for the tender during which Kuensel was disqualified on grounds that it failed to meet some specifications. On this Kuensel printing manager Pema Wangchuk said “it will be very difficult for all the bidders to comply with”.

However he also said that Kuensel being the country’s largest printing entity should have been considered.

The second bidder who got rejected was the Lhazeen Press (LP). It was disqualified for not being able to provide the bank guarantee on time. The Druk Punjab National Bank (DPNB) allocated Nu500,000  as Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) from the account of  Bhutan Trade Link International (BTLI) which is a sister company of LP. Both LP and BTLI are owned by the same owner. But LP was required to provide EMD from its Bank account addressed to the chief administrative officer, ministry of education (MoE).

The proprietor of Lhazeen press, Phuntsho Wangmo (also CEO of the Bhutan Observer) said that the DPNB made a mistake in its guarantee letter that the BTLI was the one participating for the bid which then was forwarded to the MoE and hence was rejected.

However the DPNB also sent a second letter which replaced the bank guarantee and clearly stated the DPNB accepting its mistake and requesting the MoE to consider Lhazeen press as its guaranteed entity instead of BTLI.

But the second guarantee letter sent by the DPNB was almost a week late, which made the consideration even harder. The first bank guarantee letter was sent on 3 July, 2012 while the second guarantee letter which had the clarification was sent on 10 July, 2012.

Meanwhile there are also firms which confirmed that some printing firms actually have their printings works done outside Bhutan.

The managing director of Kuensel Chencho Tshering  said that it will have  a direct impact on the country’s economy. He said “it is a law, which says printing outside the country is illegal”.

The Department of Industry issued a notice to all the ministries, departments and also to all the corporate offices in September 2007 which stated that all printing works should be awarded only to those printing firms with valid license and an established set-up in the country.

And accordingly there are prices to be paid by firms not complying with the notifications which include cancellation of their licenses.

Printing presses like the TN printing press also expressed their concerns on the growing trend of printing press that gets their work done outside the country.

The Lhazeen press said that this will possibly contribute toward the Rupee crunch which almost destroyed the Bhutanese economy.

When asked by The Bhutanese the winning bidders refused to comment on allegations about their printing works being conducted outside Bhutan or their not having a proper base within the country.

In fact they claimed to know other firms who printed outside the country.

An education official who was part of the tendering committee said they awarded the tender based on the quality they expect.

All justifications aside on behalf of the awarding authority and winners of the bid, the other bidders remain highly skeptical about some specifications in the tender document; like for instance – ‘having a specific Gram per Square Meter (GSM)’.

On this the Kuensel printing manager said “it will be very difficult for the MoE to inspect owing to the lack of technical expertise in the ministry”.

However the education officials said that the quality and all the technical requirements will be monitored if not inspected by the Department of Curriculum Research and development (DCRD) in Paro.

The printing manager with the Kuensel Corporation, Pema Wangchuk said that whatever the nature may be but ultimately he said no one is looking at the welfare aspect of the students.

He said that the education ministry is more oriented toward answering to the audit division and the anti-corruption division whereas the printers are stringently focused toward the payments and the profits involved.

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