B IDDING for tenders for Phase I of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) project to
rehabilitate Phnom Penh University began on June 13 an ADB official said.
John D. Kohler, the Team Leader for the ADB Project Implementation Unit
at the Ministry of Education, told the Post actual physical work on the
university would begin on Oct 1.
He said: "In addition, the first batch
of contracts renovating provincial schools has been signed in the last three
The $1.75 million project is only part of $7 million being made
available by ADB for education projects in Cambodia. The $7 million is part of
$70 million in ADB loans to Cambodia. The Royal Government will be required to
repay with a 1 percent service fee per year.
Phnom Penh University is
housed in a dilapidated and ageing six floor building on Poch-entong
Kohler said: "Bids will be accepted to repair and water-proof
the roof, to put in a decent water supply with plumbing throughout, to
reconstruct the toilets, to repair all drainage, and to fix all electrical
"Classrooms will be repaired, painted and furniture will be
installed. A room dedicated for computers will have air-conditioning installed.
Two of the current four floors that have laboratories will be completely
repaired. That will give the students 200 meters of laboratory
"The building structure is basically sound, but there is loose
plaster and the exterior will have to be repainted," Kohler said.
auditorium [housed in a seperate building] will be the next step in the
renovation process, and the access road will also be repaired."
month tender period will extend to mid-August, followed by a six week evaluation
period, Kohler said.
"ADB has specified the quality for the building
materials to be used, and successful bids must meet this criterion. Imported
materials under ADB contract can be brought in duty free."
ADB is also planning to rehabilitate schools in the provinces. Contracts have
been signed for two schools in Kandal, one in Phnom Penh, one in Ratanakiri, and
one in Kompong Speu. On June 17 bids will close for schools in Kompong Cham, and
on July 1 bids will close to rehabilitate schools in Takeo.
Kohler is one
of three expatriate consultants assigned to work in the Ministry of Education to
prepare plans, oversee the bid process and procurement, oversee the implementing
stage of the project, ensure that ADB procedures are followed, check contract
documentation, and train the Ministry staff.
Kohler denied the project
had been delayed by problems in the Ministry.
Kohler said: "Cambodia
lacks a lot of experience in implementing these kinds of loans, but that is to
be expected given the recent history. In fact we trained some of the Ministry
staff as we went along. It should be easier next time to do this."
was asked what role bribes or kick-backs played in the process of disbursing the
loan proceeds. Unsubstantiated reports indicated that there were delays in the
program due to disagreements about the level of kick-backs to Ministry
officials. Sources who asked to remain unidentified said that approval
signatures from the Ministry had been withheld until the percentage of
kick-backs could be determined. Kohler said: "This is absolutely not
"The money is either held in Manila, the headquarters of ADB, or
an impressed account here at the Foreign Trade Bank. In the bidding process, ADB
criteria will be imposed on the selection of contractors. The bidding will be
competitive. Money will be directly disbursed to the contractors, with 10
percent withheld for three months after work has finished to ensure that there
is no work left undone after they leave the work site.
"The bidding is
clean and scrupulously transparent. We have contracted out $1.3 million so far
without any problems. Everything is up-front and squeaky-clean."
only thing that can't be controlled is an approach by Ministry officials
directly to the contracting party after the bids have been accepted and the work
Kohler admitted that bids might be padded in order to take care
of these kinds of disbursements. He said: "But ADB has had a great deal of
experience in South East Asia and we know all the loop-holes."
said the main constraint on getting projects going was the country's "absorptive
"The absorptive capacity of a country is the ability of the
bureaucracy to move and spend aid funds at a reasonable rate without lingering
and getting bogged down in red-tape. There are countries in better shape than
Cambodia where a three-year loan period has stretched to seven years."