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We were not given fair chance
A senior official of Bombardier Inc says the Canadian aircraft manufacturer was not given a fair chance to bid for the contract to supply nine turbo prop aircraft to Caribbean Airlines (CAL). Ross Gray, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft’s (BCA) director of sales, has written to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan suggesting that lack of transparency—not aircraft safety—is the major problem tainting CAL’s attempt to acquire nine new aircraft. Ross is contending the procurement and evaluation processes were flawed and Bombardier was treated unfairly.
He further claims preferential treatment was given to the other aircraft manufacturer bidding for the project, the French firm Avions de Transport Regional (ATR). “By not running concurrent negotiations with ATR and Bombardier, CAL likely did not achieve the most favourable terms and conditions possible,” Ross said. A copy of Ross’s letter to the AG, dated December 21, was leaked to the T&T Guardian yesterday. In it Ross said he had been advised by members of CAL’s middle management that decisions on the evaluation were “all coming from the top down with very little, if any, transparency.”
He said no request for proposals (RFP) was ever issued during the procurement process and no objective criteria was established and communicated to Bombardier about how competing offers would be evaluated. In addition, CAL did not give due consideration to where the aircraft would be operated and the airline’s jets and turboprops were evaluated as separate fleets rather than one integrated fleet. Ross spearheaded a marketing campaign to CAL for Q400 turboprop planes which were being offered as replacements for CAL’s five Bombardier Q300s.
He said he made the first presentation to the local airline in March 2007. According to Ross, up to November 2009 the pace of those discussions was very slow and CAL showed very little interest in replacing its Bombardier planes. He wrote: “Meetings were infrequent and virtually all the meetings were at our own initiative—save for a meeting in February 2008 which we participated in which was organised at the request of then Prime Minister (Patrick) Manning to discuss the proposed acquisition of a Global business aircraft by CAL for Manning’s use.”
Ross said he was asked by then CAL CEO Phillip Saunders to arrange for his Bombardier Business Aircraft counterpart to present an offer to CAL and Manning. That meeting took place at the PM’s official residence.
In November 2009, Bombardier issued proposals to CAL for five Q400s and eight CSeries aircraft but never received a response. Ross said he visited CAL last January and made a presentation to then chairman Arthur Lok Jack, Captain Ian Brunton, who had recently been appointed CEO, and several members of the airline’s management.
At that time he heard CAL had engaged consultant Frederic Mognetti to assist in its aircraft evaluation for the fleet replacement. He said he later was advised by Captain Brunton that CAL was leaning toward ATR because the manufacturer was offering to put a training facility and a maintenance repair facility in Trinidad.
He said he also was told that CAL was being offered ATR72s “at a very low price” and it was felt those aircraft were more economical to operate.
Ross said in early August Brunton told him CAL had negotiated a definitive agreement with ATR which would be submitted to Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner to proceed with an order for nine ATR72s. Ross said Bombardier subsequently made a “best and final” offer to CAL at a “very aggressive” price of US$19.7 million and agreed to support CAL to qualify as a Bombardier Recommended Service Facility for its Q100/200/300/400 product lines.
“Unfortunately,” he wrote, “we never heard back from CAL.” Contacted for comment on the Bombardier claims, former CAL chairman Arthur Lok Jack said no deal was reached with ATR before the board resigned after the May 24 general election. “No deal was reached. The board received presentations from both Bombadier and ATR but we never reached the stage of a final selection. No negotiations over pricing took place,” he said. Lok Jack noted that his board was looking to purchase five turboprop aircrafts and not nine as was approved by Cabinet.
The T&T Guardian understands the former board was leaning toward ATR because of its flexibility, not its price. This was based on an evaluation of both bids, conducted by former chief executive Captain Ian Brunton. Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who is expected to advise Cabinet on the CAL aircraft acquisition issue, could not be reached for comment on this latest development yesterday.
With reporting by Asha Javeed
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