Companies with doubts about the tender over half a million euros of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
A tender worth over half a million Euros of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), has raised doubts among the bidding companies that it is tailored for a certain bidding company.
Three economic operators that have bid in this tender have submitted their complaints to the Procurement Review Body (PRB), or as it is otherwise known, the Court of Tenders. Two of the operators claim to have been eliminated from the competition in violation of the requirements of the Tender Dossier and Procurement Rules.
However, the PRB rejected their claims, paving the way for the ministry to recommend for the contract the company that offered a price of about 200,000 Euros higher than the company with the lowest offer.
After the PRB’s decision, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has recommended the Infosoft Systems Company for the contract award, which offered the amount of 572,000 Euros. The other three companies offered cheaper prices. The company that offered the cheapest price was “Novus”, which offered 369,000 Euros.
Currently, the tender has not been finalised entirely, given that the contract has not been signed yet.On 31 August 2022, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched the tender ‘Enhancing capacities in the infrastructure of the state data centre’, with an estimated value of 580 thousand Euros. Although the tender has not been finalized yet, the contact was awarded to the second ranked company with the most expensive price offered.
The purpose of the tender was to enhance the space in the State Data Center system, within the Agency for Information Society (AIS).
This would enable various state agencies, ministries and other state bodies to place their services on a common infrastructure leading to the facilitation of efficient data integration and management.
A total of five (5) companies have applied for this tender, as follows:
On 9 September 2022, the Ministry of Internal Affairs suspended this tender, after the “Novus” Company had requested a revision. Among other things, “Novus” had requested the definition of specifications for a certified expert for the configuration of the device, as well as the division of the required specifications into two lots.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs rejected this request on 13 September 2022 and continued with the tendering procedures.
Afterwards, “Novus” addressed the PRB the same allegation, which the latter had rejected based on the decision of the review expert.
On 22 November 2022, this tender was suspended again, due to the complaints of the companies ‘Infosoft’ and ‘Virtuo’.
Both complaints were rejected and, again, the Ministry of Internal Affairs continued with tendering, while the companies went on to complain to the PRB.
Suspicions of tender fixing
The “Virtuo” Company complained that it was eliminated because it did not offer “Dell” brand equipment, as well the platform of this brand is.
In the response to the Ministry of Interior’s request for additional information addressed to the company “Virtuo”, it was stated that ‘the request is to increase the existing capacities for Storage and Backup, this does not mean that the existing equipment must be enhanced, but other products can be offered that are compatible with the “VxBlock 1000” platform.
The platform of VxBlock1000 is from the “Dell” brand. A Contracting Authority, at the moment when it draws up the technical specifications of a tender, must not specify any particular brand, as this would mean that is tailors the specifications for a particular brand or supplier.
In this particular case, the Contracting Authority or MIA did not mention in the tender dossier that the equipment must necessarily be from the existing infrastructure of the Dell brand, but in the answer provided to the “Virtuo” Company, it stated that the equipment could be from any other brand besides “Dell”, but in such a way that it is compatible with the “VxBlock 1000” platform.
The Court of Tenders has rejected the complaint of “Virtuo” on the grounds that with the devices of offered brands such as “Hitachi” and “Cohesity”, despite the possibility of communication through the mentioned protocols, they are not compatible devices in the existing infrastructure, as they are not in the list of certified devices that operate with “VxBlock 1000”.
In the list of certified “Dell” devices that operate with “VxBlock 1000”, are only devices manufactured by “Dell” itself.
In this regard, the PRB was asked that since the list of “Dell” only contains equipment from this brand, it seems that there is an adaptation of the specifications, and why only this brand was asked for a list while, in this case, it is a party of interest, and why the other brands that were offered by other companies were not officially asked whether their devices are compatible with the platform.
In the response provided, the PRB has “thrown the ball” to the experts assigned for the handling of the complaint, saying that it trusts them as they are professional and independent.
PRB “promised” that in relation to this tender, it will act with professional integrity, in accordance with the law.
“PRB considers that in this particular case it is a matter of technical specifications for which two experts have given their professional opinion, with which the PRB Review Panel has agreed. However, the PRB Review Panel will act with professional integrity and in accordance with the established authorities” – it is stated in their answer.
What do the experts engaged by PRB say?
The experts assigned by the PRB to handle the complaints of the two companies were Ilir Halili and Ernest Kërqeli.
In the report of the experts, it is admitted that the equipment offered by “Virtuo” are able to communicate with the “VxBlock 1000” platform, but according to them, they are incompatible since they are not on the list of the “Dell” brand.
“Virtuo’s complaint is unfounded as the offered devices such as “Hitachi” and “Cohesity”, despite the possibility of communication using the mentioned protocols, are not compatible with the existing infrastructure, as they are not on the list of certified devices that operate with “VxBlock 1000” – it is stated in the findings made by the experts in the report submitted to the PRB Board.
PRB has not answered the question why brands such as “Hitachi” or “Cohesity” have not been asked if their equipment is compatible with the aforementioned platform, as well as if there is an adaptation of the specifications, considering that the experts are based on the list of the “Dell” brand, which is a party of interest.
“When deciding in this case, the Panel has considered that the opinion given in the expertise report is acceptable and as a result, the review expert’s opinion is considered an independent opinion of the review panel of the PRB” – the reply of the PRB states.
On 23 February 2023, the “Infosoft” Company with the offered price of 572 thousand 137 Euros was recommended for the contract award, whereas, on 20 March 2023, the contract was indeed awarded to this company. The signing of the contract was envisaged to take place on 24 March, but until the time of publication of this article, no information has been published about the signing of the contract.
The “Infosoft” Company is the second ranked as per the highest price offered.
The company “Novus” was eliminated on the grounds that it is non-responsive, while “Virtuo” was eliminated because the offer was deemed technically unacceptable due to the equipment offered. The offer of “Botek” was deemed technically unacceptable, while “Asseco” was eliminated because it was not the bidder with the lowest price.
This article was produced under the project “Good governance: stronger public procurement and policymaking” funded by the European Union and implemented by Democracy Plus (D+). Its contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of D+ or the European Union.