WasteServ has defended its actions to lower tender requirements to make it easier for more companies to bid for jobs, even when it comes to hazardous waste.
Lovin Malta this week revealed that a tender for asbestos removal was awarded to a company which, according to the Public Contracts Review Board, did not have “vital documentation” to get the job done.
The tender was worth almost €500,000 and was awarded to M Stream Ltd, a company part-owned by Bonnici Brothers.
The PCRB has since ordered Wasteserv to cancel the award of the tender and reevaluate the process.
But the state-owned waste management company argues that since permits are ultimately required to complete certain works, it is not necessary for such requirements to be part of the tendering requisites. Winning companies can simply obtain these permits after a tender has been awarded and the job will still be done according to all local and EU legislation.
And this gives taxpayers a better chance of getting value for money due to the limited size of the market.
“In all cases, WasteServ assures that operations are conducted in line with all the required legislation. But we will not add extra layers of permitting/experience requirements that go beyond what is required at law, so that it limits the competitive nature of the tendering procedure,” a spokesperson for the company said, while refusing to go into detail about this particular tender.
“Should contractors not fulfil contractual requirements these will be held liable as per the contract’s conditions,” WasteServ added.
But industry sources are fuming at this reasoning, arguing that it creates unfair competition. Companies who have invested in getting the necessary permits and insurances to be able to bid for such projects are now being undercut by newcomers who will only start to invest seriously in the sector once they have work guaranteed by the government.
“WasteServ have systematically been removing requirements in tenders that were previously there. The asbestos tender is not the only case. In some cases it is happening even with non-hazardous waste,” industry sources told Lovin Malta.
WasteServ says it is “untrue” to claim that it is systematically removing tender requirements.
In the case of this latest asbestos tender, the requirements were heavily watered down from a similar tender awarded in 2018. In fact, the 2020 tender did not request specific insurance cover for asbestos handling, permits for the export and storage of asbestos, an air monitoring key expert or proof of training or personnel certified to handle asbestos.
Asbestos is a dangerous substance that causes cancers and other diseases, which in the past was used for construction.
Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia has also defended WasteServ’s actions, saying: “contracting authorities are encouraged by the central government, that while drafting the requirements to be published through open calls, allow as much as possible, for potential economic operators to invest and obtain necessary certifications even following an award of a particular contract. All this with the intention of maximising the market whilst ensuring good value for money and that all legal parameters are respected.”
What do you think of WasteServ’s explanation?