There is a new twist in the tender launched by Lebanon’s Telecommunications Ministry to replace LibanPost as the manager of Lebanon’s postal services.
Almost two weeks after announcing the contract was awarded to French transport and logistics giant CMA CGM, caretaker Telecommunications Minister Johnny Corm decided to cancel the procedure and to launch a new one.
CMA CGM was the only candidate in the March tender. It placed its bid on March 30, 15 minutes before the deadline.
Speaking to L’Orient-Le Jour, Corm said this decision was reached in agreement with the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) and CMA CGM was notified.
“We will modify the procedure to allow more candidates to apply,” said the minister.
In the meantime, the PPA started its evaluation of the tender process, as required by the Public Procurement law of 2021. Its report was finalized last week.
PPA chairman Jean Ellieh said the authority submitted the report to Corm last Thursday and published it on the PPA’s website in the following days.
“I was supposed to meet with the minister on Wednesday to discuss the content of the report, which highlights structural failures in the way this tender was concluded,” Ellieh told L’Orient-Le Jour. “The minister valued the arguments and decided to follow the opinion of the PPA, which is not binding.”According to him, the PPA underscored two major problems:
. According to the specifications, the bidder must have experience as a postal operator, managing all elements of the postal cycle, from mailboxes management to delivery. However, Colis privé France, with whom CMA CGM had partnered, only specializes in distribution.
. The state’s share paid by the bidder is required to correspond to a “percentage of the turnover minus the cost of goods sold” by the bidder, which should not be less than 10 percent. According to the PPA, the bid of CMA CGM and Colis privé France proposed a 15.5 percent of the profit margin, i.e. “the turnover minus external expenses and consultations, depreciation, provisions, financial expenses and the purchase cost of the services sold.”
According to the PPA, the state’s interest was not sufficiently protected, which justifies the reinitiation of the tender. The tender was already launched twice since mid-October 2022.
The committee responsible for evaluating bids was composed of the Director General of Posts at the Ministry of Telecommunications Mohammad Youssef, and two other members of the ministry.
According to Corm, the specifications should be amended next week and the new procedure launched as soon as possible, with a bid submission deadline set between “May 21 and 25 at the latest.”
That is to say, a few days before the end of LibanPost’s contract.
Asked whether its management intends to participate in the new procedure, the CMA CGM Group said it would rather not give any comment “at this stage.”
A source close to one of the companies that withdrew the requested specifications during the first two tenders, and who declined to be named for professional reasons, expressed doubts about the ministry’s ability to finalize a third tender by the end of May.
“The minister planned to meet with all the companies that have requested the specifications, namely LibanPost SAL, E-conn SAL and Ghana Post, to find out what discouraged them to submit a bid,” the source said.
“Given the number of official holidays between now and the end of May, there is a risk that the ministry will not be able to complete the new procedure before the end of LibanPost’s contract, and therefore a risk that the same contract will be extended for a short period,” added the source.
They also anticipated the next specifications will be much more flexible.
The Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) contract for LibanPost expired at the end of 2019 and was extended several times while authorities validated and launched new tenders.
LibanPost SAL is jointly owned by the Saradar Group. The Mikati family’s M1 Group also holds shares in the company.
The inclusion of Lebanese postal services into CMA CGM’s existing Lebanon portfolio appears to be in line with the carrier’s development strategy in the country, which began several years ago, including the right to operate a container port terminal in Beirut for 10 years.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.