Govt reopens Schools Network Upgrade Project following court injunction

The Ministry of Education’s Schools Network Upgrade Project is facing additional costs and workloads, after an interim injunction preventing the Ministry of Education from awarding the contract for the final phase of the project.

However, the Ministry says it is still working towards completing all SNUP upgrades by December 2015 and ‘is determined to minimise the impact of this issue on schools’.

Telco Technology Services sought, and was granted, the injunction in the Wellington High Court, alleging it had been unfairly disadvantaged in the RFP process.

Telco Technology Services is one of two companies – Torque IP being the other – which have won the previous contracts to upgrade school networks.

In the RFP for the final phase of the project, the Ministry indicated that two or three contractors were likely to be awarded the remaining upgrade work.

Those tendering were required to provide information about capacity, based on winning a maximum of 50% of the 600 available schools.

However, the Ministry then began negotiations with a single preferred company. TTS says the pricing in its proposal was based on the 50% share, and it would have provided ‘significantly different’ pricings if it had known the contract could go to just one company.

Kim Shannon, Ministry of Education head of education infrastructure services, says the Ministry will reopen the tender process following the interim judgement preventing it from continuing negotiations with the preferred supplier to provide project management services for the final stages of the project.

“While the Ministry is confident a robust RFP process was followed, in the interests of giving greater certainty to schools and potential suppliers, and at the judge’s suggestion, it is intending to re-open the RFP process to allow short-listed potential providers a chance to re-submit proposals,” Shannon says.

“An independent party will be engaged to monitor the process.”

Four companies were understood to have been shortlisted for the contract. One source, who asked to remain un-named, says the independent auditor has already made contact with some of those companies shortlisted.

Shannon says the Ministry will face costs in additional time preparing for, issuing and re-evaluating proposals, and the cost of the external independent expert to monitor and audit the reopening of the RFP.

She says 1444 school upgrades have already been completed with 340 more underway. Current SNUP installations will continue as planned.

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