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16.03.2006 General News

Minister Denies Claims

By Graphic
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The Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) has denied awarding a contract to Macmillan Education Limited to supply textbooks to Ghanaian schools.

It has, accordingly, described as false claims by the Ghana Publishers Association (GPA) that the ministry had awarded a $27.9 million contract to Macmillan Education Limited.

The Ghana Publishers Association (GPA) has filed an application at the Fast Track High Court seeking an injunction from the court to restrain the ministry, the Public Procurement Board (PPB) and the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) from proceeding with the contract, pending the final determination of the instant application.

The association is also seeking a declaration that the decision by the ministry to engage in single source procurement for the procurement of books for schools from Macmillan was factually and legally unwarranted and violated the provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2003 (Act 663).

It is further seeking a declaration that the Public Procurement Board erred in law when it granted approval to the MOES to proceed by way of a single source procurement to purchase the books.

However, in an affidavit in opposition, the MOES described the plaintiff's application as “frivolous, vexatious, unmeritorious and an abuse of the court's process”.

It, accordingly, prayed the court to dismiss the application, since there was no basis to the claims by the publishers because the MOES had so far complied with the Public Procurement Act (Act 663).

The affidavit in opposition stated that the MOES entered into a contract with Macmillan Education Limited on July 2005 to supply books because the company's prices were far lower than what had been quoted by other publishers.

It said the MOES' attention was drawn to the need for it to secure approval from the PPB for purposes of single source procurement, adding that the MOES adhered to the advice and abrogated the contract with Macmillan Education Limited on July 29, 2005.

It further stated that Macmillan Education Limited wrote to acknowledge receipt of the letter abrogating the contract and urged the ministry to take steps to resolve the issue.

The affidavit in opposition stated that “having abrogated the contract, the MOES, by a letter dated August 26, 2005, then sought to conduct single source procurement. Thus at the time the MOES applied for approval, there was no subsisting contract between the ministry and Macmillan Education Limited”.

It said the PPB gave approval for the ministry to single source based on the premise that there was some urgency to the need for the supply of textbooks to schools for the upcoming academic year, as well as the quotation of lower prices by Macmillan, compared to the prices of other publishers.

It further stated, “In spite of the approval of the PPB for single source procurement from Macmillan, no new contract has been signed with Macmillan Education up to date.”

It stated that the application to the PPB for single source procurement did not state that three other publishers had submitted quotes and Macmillan Education Limited's had been found to be the most competitive, adding that what the ministry did was to attach three volumes of catalogue prices for similar/alternative books from Heinemann Africa Series, Longman Reader Series and Oxford Primary Series.

The affidavit in opposition said the contract was abrogated before the application for single source procurement was made to the PPB on August 26,2005.

It said it had evidence to prove that the PPB was aware of the nullification of the contract before the ministry applied for single source procurement.

It pointed out that the application requesting for funds was made after approval had been granted by the PPB, adding that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the application, having regard to the urgency surrounding the procurement.

“Within the Civil Service, it is proper to apply for funds before executing contract in order to avoid delays in the release of funds. This procedure is adopted when there is urgency surrounding the procurement and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that procedure,” the affidavit in opposition contended.

It also reminded the plaintiffs that the law permitted single source procurement and did not even require quotations from other competitors.

The defendants stated categorically that the application for single source procurement met the policy consideration requirements under the law, in that prior to the grant of approval, the Ghana Printers and Paper Converters Association and Unimax Macmillan Limited (for and on behalf of Macmillan Education (United Kingdom) Limited) had entered into a memorandum of understanding to collaborate and co-operate with each other to select a number of competent local printers to undertake the printing of selected textbooks and supplementary readers for the education sector.

They stated that it was agreed that Unimax should provide financial and technical support programmes, including training of personnel in the operation and handling of machinery and accessories.

The defendants denied an assertion by the plaintiffs that the decision of the ministry to single source in that particular instance violated the ministry's own textbook development and distribution policy for basic education, dated November 2003.

The defendants contended that they had not violated any law and challenged the plaintiffs to prove otherwise.

They further stated that they would prove beyond reasonable doubt, during the course of the trial, that they had adhered to all laid down procedures as was required by law.