Tribunal temporarily halts KPA cleaning tender over graft claim

Port of Mombasa. Public procurement board suspended cleaning tender amid questions about the astronomical increase in cost. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

A procurement tribunal has stopped a multi-million shilling tender by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) for cleaning services at the Port of Mombasa after a section of bidders filed a case alleging favouritism and graft.

The Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) suspended the tender amid questions about the increase in the cost of the tender, that has attracted the attention of State investigative agencies.

“Procurement proceedings are hereby suspended and no contracts shall be signed between the procuring entity and the tenderer awarded the contracts unless the appeal has been finalised,” the Board stated.

According to the documents, KPA selected 21 firms for housekeeping and cleaning services that will cost Sh43.2 million a month, totalling to over Sh500 million per year.

In the notice of review filed on July 30, the said tender to clean the 21 zones at the port currently costs Sh12 million per month, totaling Sh144 million a year. This takes the current cost up by over 350 per cent. But a source at the port said that the cost of the cleaning services in the 17 zones at the facility went up because of the scope and nature of work.

“The tenders were opened in March and awarded in July. There was a lot of lobbying from the ‘big boys and girls,” said the source, adding that it had attracted attention of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) because of the cost increment. For instance, cleaning of KPA headquarters, which was done at a cost of Sh830,920 by Cheda Investment, will now cost Sh2.2 million per month.

In the suit paper, KPA Managing Director William Ruto on July 10 notified firms that used to offer cleaning services that new firms have been awarded the tender.

“This letter commences the 14 days standstill period where you may seek redress in case you are not satisfied, details on available remedies can be found at the PPRA,” states Ruto’s letter to the firms.

Space Contractors and Supplies Investment Limited filed the complaint at the PPARB on July 31 against KPA and Mr Ruto. It listed all the 21 firms that were awarded the contracts as interested parties.

This is not the first time that the lucrative tender has hit headwinds. In June 2022, the High Court in Mombasa temporarily restrained KPA from floating the tender for the cleaning service for three zones at the port of Mombasa.

This is after Blue Sea Services Ltd sued KPA, alleging opaqueness and discrimination in the tendering process. The firm claimed that KPA shut it out of the tender after offering the service for a year.

However, the court dismissed the case in February 2023, and KPA re-advertised the tenders. The tenders, according to some of the applicants, attracted over 450 bidders. Ruto approved the evaluation process in April and the tenders were awarded on July 10, amid claims of insider trading and favouritism.

“Some bidders were given documents to amend the evaluation. The lowest bidders who have been providing the services were disqualified on technicalities,” said a bidder.

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