FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert has ordered a report into the award and subsequent cancellation of a million-dollar contract given out by the National Lotteries and Control Board (NLCB).
Former agriculture minister and deputy director at NLCB Devant Maharaj wrote to Imbert on Friday requesting that he look into the award of a contract to McCann Erickson to create, develop, manage and maintain NLCB's social media channels and provide social media content for NLCB.
According to the letter, on May 23, McCann Erickson and two other companies, Toucan and Collier, Morrison and Belgrave were invited to make their presentations to an evaluation committee comprising staff from NLCB and International Gaming Technology (IGT), formerly GTECH. IGT is contracted to NLCB to handle all their marketing.
NLCB's online manager Rolph Clarke; financial comptroller, Wendy Dwarika; marketing and public relations officer, Susan Worrell, and board secretary Rosalie John were among the evaluators along with IGT officials. They included Roger Bolai, country manager; Dexter Thomas, deputy country manager; Kirk Rampersad, marketing manager; Alliya Ali, online brands supervisor; Natalie Lewis, instants supervisor and Kenny Maharaj, brands supervisor. Observers to the pitch were NLCB director Selby Browne and director Michael Jogee along with IGT's Reanna Boodoo Jr, marketing specialist.
In a letter dated June 14, Worrell wrote to the operations/HR committee telling them that the process was flawed given that McCann Erickson was allowed to re-pitch after being told review their costing, which they did and lowered their bid by $33,000, after all three companies completed their presentations. The advice came from Browne, according to Worrell.
"In conclusion, a decision has to be made as to the agency that will be awarded the social media contract for the gaming portfolio of the NLCB. Unfortunately, the process was flawed at the re-pitch in asking McCann Erickson for a revised cost and not extending that same opportunity to the two other agencies," Worrell wrote.
On June 29, Jogee wrote to Bolai that following the May 23 presentations, McCann Erickson will be awarded the contract worth $1.5 million. Before any payment was made the contract was cancelled and the process re-started, according to NLCB chairman Eustace Nancis. Nancis could not say if there was anything untoward in the company being given what is perceived as an unfair advantage and then awarded the contract. He added that when the decision was made to have McCann Erickson re-pitch, he was not present.
Contacted on Friday, Imbert said he was given a letter by Maharaj alluding to impropriety and a call for the removal of the board. He said he requested a report on the matter and will address the issue when he received the report.
Last month, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley ordered Attorney General Faris al-Rawi to look into the spending practices at state companies including NLCB. He made the comment while addressing the audience at a cottage meeting in St Joseph.
NLCB awarded a multi-million dollar contract to Media 21 to show the Play Whe and Lotto draws, which was always done by state-owned media houses from Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) to Channel 4 and then Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG).
In May, Nancis cancelled a contract that IGT entered in with Media 21 to produce the draws which would have earned the company $7,152,000 annually, $4 million more than CNMG received. The contract was due to expire in 2020. Prior to the Media 21 deal the draws were being held at the private residence of a former government minister under the People's Partnership. That contract ended in June.