Amid criticism from local businessmen, the Ministry of Health has opened a bidding process for medical supply contracts for next year that gives companies 15 days to submit bids, in apparent violation of a regulation that requires twice that length of time.
Ministry of Finance procurement guidelines state that local companies must be given 30 days to submit bids for government supply contracts.
According to an advertisement placed in a Khmer-language newspaper on May 13, the current process began May 12 and ends May 27, a 15-day time frame that included several holidays for the King’s birthday.
Aing Sambo, chief of the procurement unit for the Ministry of Health, acknowledged Thursday that the time allotted for bids is “a little bit short,” but he said it is sufficient for the companies the ministry is looking to attract.
“Fifteen days is enough time for companies with experience [providing supplies for the ministry],” he said. “The Ministry of Health prefers to use companies that have experience.”
Aing Sambo said the ministry usually gives companies a month to submit their bids but has shortened the time on this occasion because the contracts being awarded only covers a portion of the ministry’s medical supply needs.
Additional rounds of bidding will have to be held as the rest of the ministry’s departments submits their lists of needs, he said.
“We cannot wait for everyone at once, we have to do it step by step,” he said.
Attempts to reach Minister of Health Nuth Sokhom and Secretary of State Ung Phyrun were unsuccessful Thursday.
One prominent Cambodian businessman blasted the bid process Wednesday, noting that the Ministry of Health’s narrow time frame went against legal procedures and has excluded many companies that were interested in competing competitively for the contract.
“No one can tender for this medicine unless they have already prepared,” said the irate local businessman who requested anonymity.
In August 2004, one bidder, Medical Supply Co, filed written complaints with the ministers of health and finance alleging that companies had been given less than a month to prepare medical supply bids. At the time, ministry officials met with bidders and said they would address their concerns, but did not give concrete details or a timetable.
Tom Kimson, CEO of Dynamic Pharma, said Thursday that he had just returned from a trip overseas and was not yet aware of the opening of the bidding process.
Aing Sambo said Dynamic Pharma has been awarded government contracts in the past.
By Thursday, one week into the bidding process, no companies had purchased the forms necessary to submit a bid for the tender, Aing Sambo said, adding that it had never happened before.
If no one picks up the bid application forms by May 24, Aing Sambo said he plans to re-advertise.
Under ministry guidelines, at least three companies must submit bids in order for a decision to be made, Aing Sambo said. If there are fewer than three bids, the ministry must start the entire process over again.
The cost of the bid forms ranges from $10 to $100 and is determined by the size of the contract being awarded, Aing Sambo said.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Doyle)