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Chinese Car Manufacturer Appeals against the Mayor’s Office Tendering Committee’s Verdict

Published: December 16, 2013 | 9:20 am
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Avtandil Sakvarelidze: “of the ten objections against us, none were objective. It is possible that tendering requirements were interpreted by the Mayor’s Office in an unprofessional manner. There could be other reasons, though.”

The Chinese car manufacturer Xiamen Golden Dragon Bus Co’s representative in Georgia, AvtandilSakvarelidze, has stated that the Mayor’s Office tendering committee’s decision regarding the purchase of 100 new buses is not objective. According to the Mayor’s Office, Golden Dragon did not satisfy technical and qualitative requirements, and was disqualified. In an interview with the Commercial Times, Davit Sakvarelidze has stated that he is to appeal against the decision. The company has already contacted the State Procurement Agency.

- Golden Dragon is disagreeing with the tendering committee’s reasons for disqualifying the company. Were the terms of the tender defined correctly? In your opinion, what aims were served by this decision?

- I cannot say what aims were served by the committee’s decision. However, the stated reason was absurd. The tendering documents clearly show that the terms were formed specifically to fit the model offered by one of the bidding companies. The terms of the tender place emphasis on small details that are in no way linked to either the safety or the price of the bus – these are fictitious requirements.

Moreover, the terms of the tender did not take some fundamental aspects into account, which gave us grounds for suspicion. For example, there was no requirement for the buses to have been manufactured in 2013, or to supply a specific date of production at all, which led us to suspect that someone was planning to import old buses. We addressed our objections in this regard to the tendering committee, which took them on board and made changes while the bidding process was ongoing.

When the electronic bidding process began, we found ourselves in the best position, as we offered to supply the products for $33 million – $22 million less than the $55 million figure that had been announced in the tender. There was another Chinese company offering the same price, but we outbid them. In this case, I am stressing that we named our price correctly.

- What will be your next step? How do you expect the events to unfold?

- As soon as the aforementioned statement was made by the Mayor’s Office, we uploaded an electronic appeal towards the State Procurement Agency. A hearing will be held in a few days’ time, and I am certain that the Mayor’s Office tendering committee will be presenting a modified position. I believe that the Procurement Agency is competent enough to deliver the verdict in an objective manner. However, if our appeal is rejected, then we will turn to the courts.

I would like to reiterate that of the 10 objections that were raised against us, none were objective. It is possible that tendering requirements were interpreted by the Mayor’s Office in an unprofessional manner. There could be other reasons, though.

The tendering process has been halted, and the claim that the Mayor’s Office has moved on to the next participant, and is examining their bid, does not correspond to the truth.

- Has the Chinese manufacturer experienced similar problems elsewhere?

- The company has never had any problems on the international market. The objections that have been raised by the Mayor’s Office through the tendering documents are unacceptable for a company of this stature. Of the ten objections, nine are so laughable that it is not worth even talking about them. One of the objections, however was painful for us, since it affected the company’s prestige – it was claimed that the company does not have a certificate of European standards, which is an absolute lie.

Golden Dragon has presented all the documents and certificates that are required by the EU directive. Perhaps the tendering committee had its own interpretation of the methodology, but I believe that Golden Dragon is a higher ranking specialist in this field than the Mayor’s Office Procurement Agency. Golden Dragon has one of the world’s three best bus assembly factories. The company manufactures 50 000 buses per year, and exports them to 80 countries.

Golden Dragon was also the official transport company of the 2012 Olympic Games in Beijing, and it is telling that there have been no complaints against it. Since 2002, the company is being regarded as one of the most ecologically clean manufacturer of buses by various international organisations.

- What was the Mayor’s Office’s response to your project initially, when you submitted your application?

- The amount of money designated by the Mayor’s Office for this project would in our case have been enough for 170 buses, rather than 100, and we were prepared to make further large investments on top of that. At the beginning of the tendering process, I wrote to the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office and the Tbilisi Council – the former as the contractor, and the latter as the administrator of the budget. I stated that I have a partner company that wants to invest in Georgia and has a finished project that matches the tendering requirements. The council expressed great interest and called a meeting that was attended by various NGOs and ourselves, listened to our proposals, which included provisions for disabled people, and went on to express their support. There has been no such interest shown by the Mayor’s Office, only unfounded objections.

- How did you get in contact with Golden Dragon?

- I first made contact with Golden Dragon in 2007. Already then, there were plans to invest in Georgia, creating jobs, building factories and service centres. Then, there was a rift in my activities under the previous government – there was criminality, appropriation of my property… I spent five years outside Georgia. As soon as I returned, I restored my ties to the company, which coincided with the announcement of the tender regarding the purchase of 100 buses.

- How strong was the competition?

- Very serious companies took part in the tender. They are all worthy companies, and I mean the brands themselves, rather than their local representatives. These companies were the German MAN, the Czech Iveco, the Chinese Jurong, and the Polish Solaris. As you can see, three of the companies were European, and two were Chinese. The European companies charge twice the amount of money, due to the mentality that has developed among the European market analysts. It has nothing to do with quality – Chinese manufacturing is not inferior to the European, as shown by the fact that our products are being sold in 80 countries worldwide, including 15 in Europe. The EU has rigorous certification requirements, and a company that has obtained this certificate clearly complies with all the requirements.

We have a very false perception about China – in many fundamental areas, including transport, this country leads the global market.

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