Storm in Bomet over controversial Sh495 million tender

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok gestures as he answers questions when he appeared before the Senate Committee on County Public Investments and Special Funds at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre on April 12, 2023.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

The Bomet County government has been caught in a storm over the cancellation of the Sh495 million tender for the construction of an industrial park, a move that was reversed by the procurement board.

The Public Procurement Administrative Review Board rescinded the decision to cancel the award for the construction of the County Aggregation and Industrial Park that was won by Astronea Construction Limited.

The county government terminated the tender over claims that the evaluation committee did not interview past clients of the winning tenderer.

It however emerged later that the main reason for the cancellation was lack of budgetary allocation for the project co-funded by the Ministry of Trade and Investment but the procurement board overturned the decision saying the move was not done as required by law.

"If indeed the respondent lacked adequate funding for the subject tender, nothing would have been easier than for it to demonstrate the same by exhibiting the complete procurement plan and the approved budget," the board chaired by George Murugu said.

The county's acting supply chain management, Ms Beatrice Laboso had notified Astronea that the tender had been cancelled due to lack of funds in the county budget for the 2023/2024 financial year. 

The Bomet head of procurement cited “Inadequate provision as stipulated by Sec 63(b) of the Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2015 and its attendant regulation No. 48 (1&2) of 2020”.

In the letter, Ms Laboso informed Astronea that the county intended to re-advertise the tender soonest.

Aggrieved by the decision, Astronea went to the PPARB to appeal against the cancellation.

The construction company argued that Bomet County was just a facilitator in the construction of the Aggregation and Industrial Park, giving only ten per cent of the overall cost.

The Ministry of Trade and Investment and the Council of Governors were to provide the remaining 90 Percent.

Astronea further argued that Bomet County was well aware of the estimated costs long inviting bids for the construction.

According to the firm Bomet County was very specific when they asked interested bidders to demonstrate access to liquid assets, unencumbered real assets, lines of credit and other financial means sufficient to meet construction cash flow of Sh147 million and a minimum average annual construction turnover of Sh1.28 billion within the last three years.

Astronea accused Bomet County of playing hide and seek by failing to give a true and proper account of budgetary support from the Ministry.

According to the papers filed in the PPARB, Astronea accused Bomet County of deliberately breaking the law, and intentionally exposing the County to litigation by failing to produce evidence on the proposal for financing any anticipated budget deficit.

By inviting Bids for the 500 million project, and publicly going through the entire procurement process and even spending money to visit the sites of the bidders, Astronea submitted that the county government acted contrary to the constitution and the laws.

The procurement board rescinded the decision saying it is the responsibility of the accounting officers to ensure that a procuring entity prepares an annual procurement plan which ought to be within the approved budget.

The PPARB further said that no procuring entity should commence any procurement process without being satisfied that sufficient funds to meet the obligations of the resulting contract are reflected in the approved budget estimates.

Bomet County was given until November 14 to finalise the procurement process.