Changed Darfur Request for Proposals, Leaked E-mails Show, To Track
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, March 3 -- Three
weeks after the UN had promulgated a formal Request for Proposals for a
contract in Sudan's Darfur region,
a counselor at France's mission to the UN
to the head of the UN's Procurement Service to suggest amendments to the
RFP, to change the criteria of which companies would be eligible. France
proposed lowering the required size of previously completed projects,
and including not only peacekeeping projects, but any in "austere field
A mere three days later, the UN accepted the
French amendments, substituting the phrase "hardship area" for France's
"austere field environments," the chief of the Procurement Service
acknowledged Monday to Inner City Press, asking that the e-mails not be
published and demanding to know who had leaked them. The chain of events
raises questions about whether other countries have similar access, and
about the UN's acceptance of investigative reporting on its business
dealings, particularly with countries like France.
The February 7 message
of Eric Duedal to current UN procurement chief Paul Buades, obtained by
Inner City Press and placed online
suggests switching the qualification of having done "construction of
military camps in peacekeeping mission in Africa" with a more general
(and undefined) "austere field environment." France's Mr. Duedal also
suggests a change downward from the RFP's requirement that qualified
bidders list a minimum of three completed projects, each with a minimum
value of $50 million.
The responses obtained
by Inner City Press show that Interim UN Procurement chief Buades,
rather than rejecting France's thirteen-hour lobbying out of hand,
forwarded the message to two Procurement officials, Dmitri Dovgopoly and
Chantal Maille, reportedly a French national, recently put in charge of
Darfur procurement. Mr.
Dovgopoly, despite his involvement
in the $250 million no-bid contract
to Lockheed Martin in Darfur which was criticized by the General
Assembly, was promoted some weeks ago to a higher D-1 position. And,
Inner City Press' sources say,
Paul Buades who has overseen all
this has a proposed promotion to D-2
sitting on the desk of Ban Ki-moon's senior advisor Kim Won-soo.
Ms. Maille's response, which
sources say was stilted from the fear of press exposure, based on this
publication's detailed reporting on the Lockheed Martin no-bid deal,
acknowledged that "it would not be wise to review the wording of the RFP
on the basis of the request from the French Mission as the basis of the
request is not transparent." She went on to write, however, that "on
the other hand, the UN will have the opportunity to gauge the importance
of changing this criteria after the bidders conference."
Inner City Press has
previously asked and received confirmation that contractors were
traveling to Darfur last month -- at least those granted visas by Sudan;
others were blocked. On February 29, Inner City Press asked the French
mission to the UN about Mr. Duedal and his proposed amendments, and
asked the UN Department of Field Support for comments on the Darfur RFP
and on another no-bid Darfur contract. DFS asked that this story be held
for three days to allow their comment to "make it richer."
On March 3, Inner City Press asked the Office of the Spokesperson for
the Secretary-General about France's proposed changes to the RFP, and
was told that there would be no comments on leaked e-mails, but that
Procurement's Paul Buades could and should be contacted. Inner City
Press sent him a copy of his
and asked four questions:
should have been the response to Mr. Duedal's inquiry?
--Please describe any and all
responses to Mr. Duedal's inquiry, and provide a current copy of the
RFP, and list of companies who attended the bidders' conference, by
nationality of headquarters, and those who were blocked.
--Please summarize and, it is requested, provide copies of recent
similar communications from member states, particularly but not only
Permanent Five members of the Security Council.
--Finally, is it your understanding that you are a / the finalist for
the D-2 Procurement position?
Less than an hour later, Mr.
Buades to his credit called back. He said that a written response was in
the works, to be transmitted by the UN's Department of Field Support. He
demanded to know, "How did you get my e-mail? Who gave it to you?"
Inner City Press explained, one who thought that France's intervention
with amendments to a completed RFP, and Procurement's responses, were
improper. Buades asked again to know, who provided the information. A
source who like investigative journalists anywhere, Inner City Press
said, we will not reveal, so they won't be fired.
"By your construction I would
have fired the four people to who I sent the e-mail," Buades said. He
added, "I answer your questions but you do not answer mine. You twist
what I say. Will you put my e-mail on the your web site?"
Yes, Inner City Press replied,
along with whatever comment or explanation you provide.
"If you put it on the website, I
think you deserve a different treatment," Buades said.
Inner City Press has decided to
accommodate Mr. Buades' request by publishing only two of the three
pages of the e-mail chain, leaving out messages by Chantal Maille,
Dmitri Dovgopoly and Buades himself. The message from France's Eric
Duedal, however, must be published, along with the Procurement Services'
explanation, in light of Buades' admonition to "transmit the information
we give to you."
On March 3, after
being asked by the French mission to wait until the completion of the
Security Council vote on Iran
sanctions, a French
official came to acknowledge to Inner City Press that France reached out
to UN procurement, and would be happy to see French companies get this
business. The official said that France's outreach was also on behalf of
other European Union members, mentioning a bidder from Spain and adding
that other countries should do the same.
"Some small missions
don't have the means," the French official said. "Maybe they should pool
A key question is whether
Procurement's Paul Buades would pay as much attention to a request for
amendments by a smaller or less favored country.
UN's Ban Ki-moon, France's Nicolas Sarkozy, French amendments to UN's
Darfur RFP not shown
What we can say is that the
Procurement Division's response, delivered through DFS, shows that
France essentially got the amendments it proposed. The UNPD / DFS
1. Several factors prompted a change in the evaluation criteria
for camp construction, which can happen regularly in complex tenders:
a. The template for camp construction was provisionally scaled
for a 200 man camp. As a result of security incidents in Darfur in late
2007 it was envisaged that the template would increase in size to 400
man camps. Department of Field Support (DFS) later informed Procurement
Division (UNPD) that the template would most likely remain at maximum
200 man camps for evaluation purposes. As the Request for Proposal (RFP)
incorporates a provision for splitting the award and as the level of
construction effort will be less for the 200 man camp size, smaller
sized construction companies would be able to submit proposals;
b. UNPD's review of the RFP documents (RFPS-1142), in particular
the source selection plan, revealed that some elements should have been
more precise to ensure full competition and provide clarity.
2. UNPD also received a number of concerns from European Union
countries on the probability of very limited responses to the tender.
As a consequence, DFS and UNPD agreed to make the following changes
to the technical evaluation criteria for camp construction:
a. "Contractors to list a minimum of 2 (two) completed comparable
construction projects within the past 5 years where the vendor was the
primary contractor or was the leading agent for construction element"
instead of "3 (three) completed comparable construction projects where
the vendor was the primary contractor."
b. "Each contract cited should have minimum value at least 25
million US dollars" instead of "50 million US dollars."
c. "Most similar projects would be construction of camps
(military, peace keeping, refugee, etc.) in peacekeeping missions or in
similar hardship areas of world" instead of "Most similar projects would
be construction of military camps in a peacekeeping mission or in a
changes were incorporated in the formal RFP amendment which was
distributed to all participants on 11 February 2008.
4. The changes were aimed at maximizing international competition
while maintaining appropriate selection standards for the Vendors.
5. As a result, UNPD, at this point, has a robust response from
the international market. In particular, it will be noted that 25
companies, representing 12 countries, attended the Darfur Conference in
order to complete their proposals by 20 March 2008.
One question is, if the UN's
Procurement Division took France's amendments weeks after the January 15
RFP went out, how were other companies made eligible by the changes
supposed to know to attend the Darfur Conference? And if they did not
attend, can they bid by March 20?
The French official pointed out
that this lobbying was triggered by DFS' $250 million no-bid contract in
Darfur with Lockheed Martin, announced on October 15, 2007. "You
remember, Russia too was unhappy with that," the official said. In
context, he argued that allowing these French amendments might make the
process more inclusive that it has been. But if there is a slightly
larger group of insiders, is it not still an insider's game? Should the
UN not be required to tell all member states that this is the process,
they can write to and be heard by the head of the UN's Procurement
Service and get thirteen-hour changes to already finalized Requests for
Proposals? "Maybe the Secretariat should do that," the French official
conceded. There is more, on another UN's no-bid contract with Lockheed
Martin. Watch this site.
* * *
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