By Xavier Manchishi
The Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) tender process for the granting of safari hunting concessions which Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo cancelled was marred with glaring irregularities, a report has revealed.
Ms Masebo, who is appearing before the Tribunal for alleged interference at ZAWA, cancelled the tender due to glaring irregularities.
According to a document tendered by Ms Masebo's lawyer Robert Simeza at the Rhoyda Kaoma-led Tribunal appointed to probe the Tourism minister's alleged interference at ZAWA, the tendering process had various discrepancies.
The document, a report from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on preliminary investigations on the ZAWA tendering process signed by ACC Director-General Rosewin Wandi, outlined the irregularities discovered following the request by the Ministry of Tourism.
"The tender evaluation committee irregularly employed its discretion to disqualify eligible bidders by using criteria which were not prescribed in the bidding/solicitation document on Instruction to Bidders," the report reads in part.
Consequently, bidders such as Legend Adventures, Tandala Safaris, Mafitema Safaris, and GR Safaris were unfairly disqualified on minor deviations contrary to the prescription in the bidding document.
It was also noted that companies such as GR Safaris were unfairly disqualified for not providing the bid security as per standard when in fact the company had complied by providing a manager's cheque that fell within the bid security validity period of 120 days from the date of issue.
Investigations further established that Tandala Safaris and Zambezi Expedition were also disqualified under Upper Lupande hunting bloc on grounds that their bid security did not meet the validity period when in fact not.
"It was further noted that there were wide variations in the scores of the evaluators on the same criteria as though the evaluators were looking at different submissions when in fact the submissions were uniform," the adds the report.
The report also reveals that the evaluation committee was not consistent in the evaluation process which saw Matope Safaris considered for two hunting blocs when the company did not specify which hunting bloc it was applying for.
The same company was not evaluated for the Luwawata hunting bloc on grounds that it did not specify the hunting blocs it had applied for, a direct contradiction with the earlier decision to consider it for Lower Lupande and Kasonso hunting blocs.
The report also noted that ZAWA used the two envelope system for the tender which required the placing of technical and financial bids in separate envelopes as anchored on the Procurement Regulations in the ZPPA Act number 12 of 2008 but which is liable to speculation.
It was established that the ZAWA management was on firm grounds to exclude chiefs in the evaluation process with the Authority instead of preferring to use its discretion to pick Community Resource Boards to represent the chiefs, but with little requisite evaluation knowledge.
The ACC preliminary investigations also found that while the ZPPA granted a 'no objection' on the solicitation document, the Authority neglected to render professional guidance on provisions in clause 2.2 of the solicitation document.
The report recommended that the tender be re-advertised with a different evaluation team comprising professionals from ZAWA and external members to be constituted to conduct the process based on fresh bids.