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Marpi landfill deal terminated

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THE Department of Finance- Division of Procurement and Supply  on Tuesday terminated the $3.8 million contract between  the Department of Public Works and Micronesian Environmental Services LLC  or MES for the Marpi landfill operation, saying it violated  procurement regulations.

Procurement and Supply Director Francisco C. Aguon issued the decision in response to the protests filed by three other contractors who submitted bids for the landfill contract.

Success International Corp., Tang’s Corp. and SM Enterprises filed their protests in July, citing conflict of interest and “major signs of bad faith and nepotism” in the overall process of the request for proposals or RFP for the operation of the solid waste management facility in Marpi.

DPW awarded the $3.8 million three-year contract to MES on June 17, 2020 following the favorable decision of the evaluating team composed of Blas T. Mafnas, DPW Solid Waste Management Division manager; Henry Bautista and Isagani Salazar, DPW highway engineers; and George Sablan, accountant. The award included an option to renew the contract for an additional two years.

In its  decision,  Procurement and Supply said it considered some of the “numerous” issues raised by the protesters.

“All issues have been reviewed, though not all issues may be listed below. Additionally, although all issues listed below have been reviewed, not all are discussed. Further, P & S finds that the issues discussed are sufficient to warrant the decision,” Aguon stated.

He said MES “was improperly credited.”

On Feb. 27, 2020, MES revised its monthly price bid from $119,989 to $109,683. This was revised for the second time on March 4 to $106,495 after DPW notified Tang’s and Success International that they were  among the “top qualified proposers.”

 Reps. Joseph Leepan Guerrero and Marco Peter tour the Marpi landfill last month. Also in photo is Micronesian Environmental Services LLC environmental engineer James Benavente. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

Aguon said unlike MES, Tang’s and Success were not given a similar opportunity to revise their proposals. Tang’s and Success were not treated fairly and equally, he added.

But Aguon said there is no evidence or allegation of fraud. “Based on the record, the government exercised its discretion and judgment in finding MES financially responsible.”

Regarding the allegation of conflict interest, Aguon said DPW Solid Waste Management Division Manager Blas T. Mafnas and MES environmental engineer James Benavente are not relatives under 1 CMC Section 8503(m).

He said  Mafnas’ mother and Benavente’s grandmother are sisters. But “under the statute, the relationship does not fall within the definition of a ‘relative.’ For instance, Benavente is not Mafnas’ nephew because Benavente is not the son of Mafnas’ sister or brother. Benavente is also not the son of any of Mafnas’ in-laws. Even if the relationship were that of ‘first cousins’, they still would not be considered relatives under the statute,” Aguon said.

Nevertheless, he added, “in view of the record and the violation of procurement regulations, it is determined that it would be in the Commonwealth’s best interest to terminate the contract pursuant to NMIAC Section 70-30.3-510(b).”

“Accordingly,” he said, “Procurement & Supply will issue a revised solicitation under which all parties will have an opportunity to participate.”

But MES will be allowed to continue to operate the landfill until a notice to proceed is issued under the new contract, Aguon said.

In an interview, House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, said: “I’m glad that Procurement and Supply looked at this issue extensively and made a decision based on the valid concerns raised.”

He said  the landfill operation is crucial to the island, adding that the CNMI government must handle it properly “so we won’t be sanctioned by the federal government.”

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