Tablet suppliers claim school bids rigged | Bangkok Post: tech

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Supplier charges tablet bids may be rigged

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Computer tablet supplier Supreme Distribution Co has threatened to file a lawsuit against the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) if it invalidates a bidding result for Zone 3, covering the Central Plains and southern provinces. 

Tablets have proved a hit with most pupils and teachers, but companies bidding to supply the billions of baht worth of devices are squabbling like children on the playground. (Bangkok Post file photo by Tawatchai Khemgumnerd)

The company won the June bidding to supply 426,683 tablets to Mathayom 1 students and teachers in Zone 3.

However, Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng last month instructed Obec to scrap the tablet procurement in Zone 3 because of concerns about bid rigging.

The minister's concerns arose because only two companies took part in the bidding. Supreme Distribution offered a price of 2,908.24 baht per unit which was unusually close to the median price of 2,920 baht. The Office of the AuditorGeneral (OAG) has also questioned the price difference between the computer tablets procured in zones 3 and 4.

Jasmine Telecom Systems won the bid to supply 402,889 tablets for Mathayom 1 students and teachers in Zone 4 covering the northern and northeastern provinces for 2,169 baht apiece.

Obec, however, has not yet signed an order to invalidate the bidding result for Zone 3 as instructed by the minister.

Panuwat Khantamoleekul, managing director of Supreme Distribution, Thursday vehemently denied foul play in the bidding.

"I assure that there was no bid rigging and we have not colluded with our competitor," he said, referring to SVOA Plc — the other company that took part in the Zone 3 bidding.

He said the company had already sent two letters to Mr Chaturon and a ministry committee overseeing the tablet computer scheme to quell suspicions.

As for the questions over the price difference between Zone 3 and Zone 4, Mr Panuwat said the tablet price procured for Zone 4 was lower than Zone 3 because Zone 4 bidders had learned about the winning price in the previous bidding for zones 1-3. He said they lowered their price to near the median price.

According to the tablet scheme's terms of reference, the tablet committee can revoke the bidding results only if there is "strong evidence" of bidding irregularities.

He said the OAG's concerns are not considered solid evidence.

Obec earlier conducted a probe into the alleged irregularities in the bidding, but found no wrongdoing.

Mr Panuwat said once Obec signed an order to scrap the Zone 3 bidding result, the company would automatically be put on a blacklist and might face legal action.

"This will damage the company's reputation," he said. "We might have to file an administrative charge against Obec to protect our image."

Obec secretary-general Chinnapat Bhumirat Thursday said the company had the right to file a lawsuit against the agency.

However, he insisted Obec had not yet nullified the Zone 3 bidding result.

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