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UK firms cry foul over US bidding terms for Iraq work

BRITISH CONSULTANTS and contractors have accused the US government of giving American firms an unfair advantage when organising bids for $19bn of Iraqi reconstruction contracts.

They said that short timescales for returning bids worked against non-US firms.

The US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) gave bidders just over a week to form partnerships and tender for prime design and build construction contracts worth upwards of $515M each.

Firms had until 5 December to decide which of an array of prime construction and program management contracts to bid for and submit 'Ability to succeed' documents.

These detail past experience and corporate information such as corporate structure, financial performance and staff experience.

In that time UK firms were also required to register with the US government Central Contractor Registration to make them eligible to carry out the work.

This gave them a maximum of two weeks to submit detailed proposals before Christmas.

Firms contacted by NCEI in November feared they would be unable to provide the right information in such a short time.

'The timing is ridiculous.

What they're asking for will no doubt be angled towards US firms and we will have difficulty complying, ' said one consultant.

'It's a fix.'

Even if British firms were able to get the information in time, they fear it will be difficult to win contracts.

It is thought that the seven program management contracts on offer - one for each sector and one overarching contract - will go to US firms with a detailed understanding of US government contracts.

UK firms also fear that the individual prime construction contracts are too big.

The number of prime construction contracts varies in each sector (see box), but civils contracts are typically worth between $515M and $1.7bn each.

'It's pretty obvious that we've got to go in with contractors, ' one consultant told NCEI. 'But UK contractors, even the largest ones with turnovers of $3.4bn, are going to find it difficult to put a team on call when they're bidding for call up contracts.'

CPA Program Management Office head Rear Admiral David Nash denied that the system was biased.

'It may look like a short timescale, but we have an office full of experts in the procurement business and I have no doubt that it will be anything other than fair, ' he told British firms at a conference in London.

'It's challenging, it's fast, but you can be a part of it if you're flexible and on your toes, ' he said.

British firms believe the water sector offers the most realistic chance of work. There are five regionally based prime contracts with a total value of $3.6bn.

'The only place we will win work is the southern water contract, ' said one contractor.

'But even that is huge.'

The contracts

Program Management and Sector Program Management contracts A single contract will be awarded for the running of the Project Management Office (PMO).

The PMO will oversee and manage six separate Sector Project Management Offices (SPMO), each corresponding to a ministry within the Iraqi government.

Sectors include electricity; transportation and communications; buildings and health; security and justice; oil; public works and water resources.

Each sector program manager will be responsible for devising works programmes to be carried out by prime construction contractors in that sector.

SPMO contracts will be on a cost plus award fee basis and will run for two years.

Timetable for PMO and SPMO contracts

21 Nov: Draft solicitation notice published on Federal Business Opportunities website.

3 Dec: Final solicitation notice published.

5 Dec: 'Ability to succeed' data on past performance and financial capacity submitted.

19 Dec: Management and cost/ price data submitted.

30 Jan: Award PMO and SPMO contracts.

Work sectors Power: Six contracts worth a total of $5bn. Includes two new power generation contracts and one rehabilitation contract worth $2.4bn in total; three transmission and distribution contracts worth $2.6bn, one communications and control contract worth $151M and one $50M security contract to equip and train the 'Power Police'.

Transportation and communications: One contract worth $515M. Includes $203M for rail, $45M for ports, $172M for roads and $93M in airports.

Buildings and health: One contract worth $1,200M for public buildings.

Security and justice: Two design and build contracts worth $1,512M will cover the reconstruction of security, justice and defence facilities.

Public works and water resources: A nationwide water resources contract is worth $782M, including $203M for a new Basra and Umm Qasr water supply pipeline. Four regional contracts worth a total of $36bn for drinking water supplies and wastewater.

Prime contracts will be 'Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity' (IDIQ) contracts on a cost plus award fee (CPAF) basis.

The contract will include clauses for cost reimbursement and fixed price tasks.

Contractors will be expected to provide their own security, labour, equipment, materials, investigation, design, permits, environmental remediation, demolition, rehabilitation, new construction, supervision and testing.

Prime Construction Contracts Timetable

26 Nov: Draft Request for Proposal (RFP) published on Federal Business Opportunities website.

5 Dec: Final RFP published.

9 Dec: 'Ability to Succeed' data submitted.

11-15 Dec: Feedback to shortlisted firms. Bidders conference in US.

29 Dec: Final proposals submitted 1 Feb: Prime construction contracts awarded.

GROUND FORCE: Car bombings, lootings and increasing public demands must be overcome by engineers working for the British Army reserve on the reconstruction of key infrastructure in southern Iraq.

In October a reservist engineer working for Arup lost a team of colleagues when their truck drove over a bomb.

'The loss of that team of people half way through developing the project was a major problem, ' said Richard Brown, a lieutenant colonel in the Territorial Army's Military Works Force (Volunteers).

Brown, a rail specialist with Arup, was drafted into Basra after summer riots to head a $129M emergency works project.

The emergency project is intended to patch up fuel, electricity, and water networks and is jointly funded by the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the US and British governments.

Brown's job is to liaise with experts from electricity, fuel and water networks, all of which are interdependent on each other. 'I have never dealt with power stations or oil refineries in the past, but that doesn't really matter. All you need is a basic engineering background to understand things in general - nobody could ever be an expert on all three anyway.'

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