Sokimex, Tela Win Gov’t Oil Bid, ‘Big Family’ Bows Out

Sokimex and Tela have each won several government petroleum contracts for 2004, company and government officials said Thursday.

Sokimex, which in the past has had close business dealings with the ruling CPP and is the largest Cambodian petroleum company, won the contracts for the Ministry of Defense, the Phnom Penh Port Authority and the Water Supply authority, said Sorn Sokna, the company’s vice president.

Tela has won the contracts to supply petroleum to the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Finance, he added. Muong Kompheak, director general of Tela and Hun Sen’s son-in-law, could not be reached for comment.

Sokimex had a monopoly on government petroleum contracts from 1997 until 2003, when the government opened up the bidding process. Last year, officials said, a Cambodian business group named “Big Family,” acting as a representative of the Malaysian-owned Petronas, won the most contracts.

“Last year, Big Family bid at a lower price because it wanted to introduce [the Petronas] petroleum brand into the market,” said Chhay Vuth, director of the public procurement department at the Ministry of Finance.

Big Family is a mystery to many people involved with the government petroleum contracts. It is not listed in the phone book and could not be contacted Thursday.

When asked about Petronas’ connection to Big Family on Thursday, Maheran Salim, manager of the finance and administration department at Petronas, said “no comment” and abruptly hung up the phone.

Big Family “won many tenders last year,” said Sorn Sokna. “I don’t know the owner, its facility or its background. Last year they bid below market price. If [Sokimex] followed them, we would lose money.”

Big Family was banned from bidding on this year’s contracts because of “trouble in terms of delivery and quality,” he said.

Chhay Vuth said Big Family has yet to bid on any contracts this year but denied that it is banned from bidding.

“It is quite difficult for small companies now because most ministries put many conditions, such as supplying petroleum to the provinces,” he said.

The bidding to supply petroleum to both the Education and Posts and Telecom­munications ministries is expected to open today, Sorn Sokna said. Other government bodies, including the Tourism and Social Affairs ministries, as well as Electricite du Cambodge, the state-run electricity company, expect to open bids within the month.

Big Family won the contract for the Ministry of Tourism last year, Nhem Khe­mara, director of the ministry’s finance department, said Thursday.

“The company is based in Cambodia but I don’t know its background,” he said.

Chhay Vuth did not disclose how much each of the contracts is worth. The ministries of Education and Defense spent more than any other ministry, show provisional 2003 budget implementation figures.

“Sokimex is a huge company that has everything the Ministry of Defense needs,” he said. “It can supply everywhere around the country.”

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, confirmed Tela won the contract to supply his ministry with petroleum for the second year in a row.

Some companies have been reluctant to participate in the bidding. Total and Caltex did not want to participate because they cannot supply petroleum far from Phnom Penh, Chhay Vuth said. Representatives from both companies could not be reached for comment Friday.


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