Following a recent ruling by the Bid Protest Committee (BPC) ordering that a contract with a Surinamese subsidiary supplying beverages for the school feeding programme be annulled, the Education Ministry is currently in discussions on the next step forward.Permanent Secretary Delma NeddContacted on Wednesday, Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry, Delma Nedd, told Guyana Times that discussions have commenced and are ongoing.“I can’t say how long it will take… but no steps have been taken with regards to that decision (by the BPC),” she indicated. Further asked whether a contact was made with the Surinamese company on the ruling with the intention of putting on hold obligations under the contract signed last year, Nedd related that the Ministry is still discussing the issue.The Bid Protest Committee ruled this week against Government’s decision to award its supply contract to the Suriname Company.Tropical Orchard Products Company (Topco), which is a subsidiary of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), was a long-time supplier of juices to the Guyana Government for its national school feeding programme until the Education Ministry deemed its bid for a continuation of the contract unsuitable, based on performance, and handed the contract to Caribbean International Distribution Inc (CIDI), a subsidiary of Rudisa Beverages out of Suriname. This prompted the local fruit juice company to appeal the decision to the Bid Protest Committee, which has since ruled that the Ministry breached sections of the Procurement Act and therefore ordered that the evaluation of the tenders be annulled because the Ministry’s evaluation committee “used an unlawful procedure to assess the bid of (Topco)”.The Committee pointed out that the Education Ministry failed to make known that past performance was a criterion for selection beforehand. “The non-disclosure of past performance as an evaluation criterion in the solicitation documents prevents and precludes the procuring entity from belatedly relying on such criterion in the evaluation and determination of the bid,” the Committee said in its ruling.It went on to rule that “The procuring entity failed, refused and/or neglected to consider only such evaluation criteria as set forth in the solicitation and tender documents contrary to sections 5 (3), 39 (2) and 39 (4) (c) of the Procurement Act, Cap 73:05.”The Bid Protest Committee further ordered the Ministry to compensate Topco for the cost of the preparation of its bid.The evaluation committee has a specific remit from which it should not deviate. Firstly, it must only use the evaluation criteria that are in the tender documents to evaluate the bidders. Secondly, using these criteria, it determines the lowest evaluated tender and“Thirdly, it conveys its recommendation to the procuring entity in a timely manner. No scope is given to the evaluation committee to use any criteria other than what is set out in the tender.”Six companies, Surinamese subsidiary, had bid for the contract and Topco reportedly submitted the lowest bid of $506.6 million. Citing issues with performance such as expiration dates being breached and spoilage, the Ministry wrote Topco a letter to inform the company that it had been unsuccessful.Despite Topco responding and asking for its bid to be reviewed in accordance with the criteria set out in the bid documents, Government did not reply. This stance continued until Topco complained to the Bid Protest Committee, after which the Education Ministry revealed it had felt compelled to invite the juice company.At the hearing, which was held on November 29, 2016, Topco requested that the Ministry annul its decision against Topco and re-evaluate the company’s bid according to the bid documents. In addition, a request was made for a full refund of its registration fee. Present at the hearing was the Education Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Delma Nedd.