Auto dealer slams the brakes on State's vehicle leasing plan

Some of the 100 brand new Mahindra Scorpio vehicles that were leased to the National Police Service by Simba Corp at handing over ceremony. [James Wanzala, Standard]

The government has been forced to go back to the drawing board over its latest vehicle leasing plan.

This is after one of the bidders protested that it was unfairly locked out of leasing vehicles in some of the categories that had been open for bidding despite having been the lowest bidder. 

The National Treasury was in May nearing the conclusion of the tender processes, having selected companies that would supply State entities with vehicles under the leasing programme and readying to award the contracts.

But this was scuttled when Simba Corporation lodged a request at the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (ARB) for a review of the tender process. 

The firm was protesting being locked out in two of the 11 lots that companies were competing in to lease vehicles to the government.

It argued that it was the lowest bidder in both lots, but the Treasury committee that had been evaluating the bids recommended Isuzu East Africa for the award contract. 

In the request for review lodged on June 13, Simba Corp names Isuzu as an interested party.

Treasury in defending its decision noted that the firm had not been considered in the two contested lots since it had won bids in similar lots and also claimed that it had not provided a letter of credit as required of bidders.

The government pays different vehicle leasing firms billions of shillings every year under the programme.

ARB in its ruling on July 4 set aside the decision by the Treasury and directed it to relook the bids that Simba Corp had submitted.

“The letters of notification of intention to award dated May 24, 2023 to the interested party and all other successful tenderers with respect to various lots in tender number TNT/017/2022-23 for Motor Vehicle Leasing Programme Phase VII be and hereby nullified and set aside,” said ARB in its ruling in which it also nullified the letters that had been written by Treasury informing other tenderers that they were unsuccessful and directed Treasury

“The first respondent (National Treasury) is hereby ordered to direct the Evaluation Committee to admit the Applicant’s (Simba Corporation) tender at the Financial Evaluation stage together with all other tenders that made it to the financial evaluation stage and conduct a re-evaluation of the tenders at the financial evaluation stage (being all other tenders that made it to the financial evaluation stage including the Applicant’s tender) strictly using the criteria and formulae set out in the Tender Document, the (Public Procurement) Act, (public procurement) Regulations 2020 and the Constitution, and to take into considerations the findings made by the Board in this decision.

“For the avoidance of doubt, such re-evaluation shall be based on the documents already submitted by the parties and not any new documents.”

The board, in its decision, further directed Treasury to “proceed with the procurement process in the tender… for Motor Vehicle Leasing Programme Phase VII to its logical conclusion including making awards to the successful tenders in the various Lots within 14 days from the date of this decision while taking into consideration the Board’s findings.”

In its submission to ARB, Treasury had noted that its evaluation committee had recommended that Isuzu East Africa get the award for Lot 2B as Simba Corp had been considered for award under 2A being under Lot two, since “a tenderer could only be awarded one item.”

Other than Lot 2A, Simba Corp had also been recommended for the award of lots 5B and 11C. Isuzu, on the other hand, had been recommended for the award of lots 2B, 4B, 7,8, 9, 10, 11A, and 11B. Simba Corporation filed a request for review on June 13 in which it sought the determination that its bids to lease vehicles to the government under lots 2B and 4B were unsuccessful to be declared null by ARB.

It also asked to the board to compel Treasury to consider its tender at the financial evaluation stage, where it had been knocked out, and proceed with the procurement process to its logical conclusion of the award to the lowest evaluated bidder.

Treasury, in its response submitted to the board, claimed that while Simba Corporation had purported to submit a letter of credit during the tender process, it had instead submitted a letter indicating its bank details.

Treasury also said that while Simba Corp claimed to have been the highest evaluated tenderer for lots 2B and 4B of the tender, the award of the tender was based on the highest combined technical score.