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Bids open for $1.75m varsity contract

Bids open for $1.75m varsity contract

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

weeks."

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

Boulevard.

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

wiring."

"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

rooms."

"The building structure is basically sound, but there is loose

plaster and the exterior will have to be repainted," Kohler said.

"The

auditorium [housed in a seperate building] will be the next step in the

renovation process, and the access road will also be repaired."

The two

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."

Kohler said

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."

Kohler

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

true."

"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."

"The

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

starts."

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."

Kohler

said the main constraint on getting projects going was the country's "absorptive

capacity".

"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."

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