The construction of kitchens and dining halls across 289 public primary schools will be jointly covered by the World Bank and the City Administration.

Nine contractors have won a bid to build 118 kitchens and dining halls in public schools included under the School Feeding Programme across nine districts for 765 million Br. The bid for 33 other schools has failed to materialise.

Initiated by former Deputy Mayor Takele Uma, the School Feeding Programme was launched across all 289 public nursery and primary schools in the city. The construction of these facilities will be undertaken jointly by the City's Construction Bureau, Education Bureau and the School Feeding Agency, which is overseeing and facilitating the entire programme.

Funded through a loan from the World Bank, the project is aimed at building places where meals are cooked and served for the 381,000 public students across these schools. The City Administration will finance 138 more facilities itself. The bid was floated in early July and classified through 12 lots. It drew the attention of 534 companies; however, only 45 of them have submitted their bidding documents.

Amare Moges Construction secured the highest value bid, amounting to 129 million Br, to build 20 schools in Bole District. Meanwhile, Tabu Construction will be working at 10 schools in Gulele District after winning a bid valued at 58.5 million Birr. The City Administration could not find qualified bidders for schools in three districts, namely Yeka, Lideta and Kolfe Keraniyo. With only 24 million Br in funds remaining, 10 schools in Lideta will go up for a rebid, leaving a total of 23 schools without funding to be funded by the City Administration.

The rebid process is being allowed for Lideta since both lots under the District have failed, according to Tamrat Estifanos, deputy director of the Urban Job Creation & Food Security Agency, adding that the Agency can decide to rebid Lideta without the approval of the World Bank.

"Yeka and Kolfe Keraniyo each had winners for one lot, making the process to rebid for the districts cumbersome," said Tamrat, "as it would require the involvement of the Bank."

Companies that did not pass the technical and financial evaluation have filed grievances, and those are under review, according to Tamrat.

The qualification of companies and the documents they provide during a bidding process are very sensitive, according to Mathios Ensermu (PhD), an expert in supply chains and logistics.

"A bid-offer could be rejected based on a lack of certain documents that qualify eligibility," he said. "But after grievances have been stated, it depends on the mandate of the committee that oversees the case to make exceptions."

In cases where there is a lack of sufficient qualified bidders, there may be a need to change bid specifications as well, according to him.

Last week City Administration representatives, the Agency and the construction companies held a meeting on the expedition of project delivery.

"We've almost reached an understanding on the time frame," said Tamrat, "which we expect to be two months."

During the discussion, the issue of cement and metal shortages was raised by contractors. These shortages would make it difficult for them to meet the new project deadline, down from the initial agreement of four months.

"We've discussed the option of having cement provided to us with a direct purchase, so that we don't have this obstacle," said Beyene Girma, founder and CEO of BGM Construction, winner of a lot that incorporates 13 schools for 89 million Br under Kolfe Keraniyo District.

The new schedule will also require the companies to work overtime and through nights to finalise the project in time, he explained.

"We'll aim to finalise internal work first, which will allow the dining halls and kitchens to be operational while we finish the exterior," he said, "in the case that we don't complete everything in time."

Though this may have cost repercussions, the contractors have accepted this as part of a social obligation since the project will benefit students from the community, according to Beyene.

The construction of the school dining halls and kitchens is being expedited owing to the recent federal decision to reopen schools after a seven-month hiatus due to COVID-19, according to Anchinesh Tesfaye, head of the School Feeding Agency.

"The construction will continue as schools reopen," she said, "in a way that won't disrupt the learning process."

PUBLISHED ON Oct 24,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1069]

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