BMTA mulls direct deal with firms for NGV buses

New price negotiations for the procurement of 489 NGV buses could be made between private companies and the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) if there are still no new bidders by Thursday, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith says.

The project has been blighted by its current median price of 4.02 billion baht, which is considered a very low one for potential suitors, most of which are private companies.

A cheaper, 3.3-billion-baht contract to procure the buses was originally won by Bestlin Group on April 12.

However, the company was later blacklisted by the BMTA after it failed to deliver all the buses from Laem Chabang Port in Chon Buri to the authority in time.

The Customs Department suspected Bestlin of having made it look like the buses were assembled in Malaysia to take advantage of an Asean free-trade agreement, which allowed it to charge a low median price.

Tomorrow, the BMTA will invite nine private companies to join the bidding in its auction while trying to adhere to the same 4.02-billion-baht median price, Mr Arkhom said.

He added this is the second measure to be taken in accordance with the Government Procurement and Supplies Management Act, promulgated in the Royal Gazette in February.

If an agreement still cannot be reached, the BMTA will follow through with the act’s final measure, which will allow the BMTA to negotiate a new median price with a private company of their choice, without the need for an auction.

“With this third measure, a procurer will definitely be found,” Mr Arkhom said.

“We do not know how long these processes will take, but we are trying to push this through to get the buses as fast as possible.”

He said that if a private company is still not found after this step, changes to the procurement’s terms of reference (TOR) will have to be made to ensure the buses eventually hit the streets.

The procurement of the 489 NGV buses was earlier tipped by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to be concluded by this year.

According to the premier, the buses were meant to be a “New Year’s gift” to the public.

BMTA deputy director for bus operations Prayoon Choygeo said discussions with domestic and international private companies have led to the conclusion that the project’s median price is indeed considered low.

Another issue, he said, was the project’s 10-year collateral agreement, which includes both the original purchase of the buses as well as maintenance costs.

Mr Prayoon said companies looking to invest in the project were put off by the possibility of incurring losses from the deal.

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