A lucrative motorcycle contract tied to the government’s plans to remove thousands of soldiers from active service has been awarded to a Chinese company that was not among the lowest bidders, a World Bank official confirmed this week.
Gillian Brown, a World Bank official based in Bangkok, said the Jiangmen Zhongyu Motor Company, which offered to sell 13,764 motorcycles to the government for $6.93 million, listed a higher price than eight of 13 companies submitting competing bids.
The lower bids were disregarded because they lacked signatures, were not complete, or were submitted by companies that were not qualified to deliver and service the motorcycles, said Brown, who was in Phnom Penh recently to advise the government on the motorcycle contract.
Brown added that, as far as she was aware, the bidding was fair. Rules accompanying the bidding process dictated that any bid could be rejected if there were doubts about the company’s financial, technical or production capabilities, and this rule accounted for many of the rejections, Brown asserted. But a source near the bidding said he doubted that the winning company had the experience to meet a World Bank requirement that the motorcycles be serviced for one year after delivery.
No one from the Jiangmen Zhongyu Motor Company could be contacted for this story. The company does not appear in the phone book and World Bank officials were unable to provide the company’s local phone number.
A representative for the French consulting firm Thales E&C, which was hired to administer the bidding process, did not respond by press time to a series of questions about the bids.
The lowest bidder, Sophorn Ratanak Construction, said it would provide the same number of Chinese-made motorcycles at a cost of $4.96 million, according to records.
The winning bid from Jiangmen Zhongyu would charge about $503 per motorcycle.
Brown said the winning bid was lower than World Bank officials had expected, a savings that comes in large part from the flood of cheap Chinese motorcycles that have hit the Asian market in the past few months.
The motorcycle contract is by far the largest cost for the government as it removes 30,000 soldiers from active service, lowering the standing military to slightly less than 100,000 soldiers. The $42 million program relies on World Bank and international donor financing, as well as some government funds.
The retiring soldiers, many of them too ill or too old to fight, are being retired in two waves of 15,000 each. Jiangmen Zhongyu would provide motorcycles for the first group of soldiers, some of whom have been retired for more than one year.
The demobilization program is run by Council for the Demobilization of Armed Forces General Secretariat Svay Sitha. On Monday he referred all questions to the Thales consultant.