Review Board grants time to Puerto Rico Housing to address contract objections
SAN JUAN – The Bidding Review Board (CPRB) of the Puerto Rico Housing Department (PRHD) gave the agency’s lawyers one week to respond to arguments presented by AECom challenging the $132.8 million contract awarded to Adjusters International to implement the program Tu Hogar Renace (Your Reborn Home), which helps rebuild houses affected by Hurricane Maria.
The CPRB decision came after AECom submitted its arguments in an administrative hearing, at which the PRHD lawyer, Isla Quiñones, asked for additional time to respond to objections.
According to Quiñones, although the legal recourse was presented Jan. 8, the summons to the hearing occurred on Wednesday, 15 hours before it was held, so she had not had time to prepare.
The board’s president, Eduardo Pérez, gave the Housing Department until Thursday, Jan. 18, to submit not only their rebuttal, but also the complete files of the request for proposals process used for the Tu Hogar Renace program.
The board, however, did not grant AECom’s request to halt the hiring process. The CPRB president denied the petition and stated the CPRB does not have the prerogative to stop contracts before said body arrives at a final decision.
The main arguments for AECom to contest the procurement is that the Housing Department did not follow its own guidelines when it granted the contract to Adjusters International, despite AECom receiving a higher score in the evaluation process.
According to AECom, Adjusters International should have been disqualified in the first round for not complying with the “threshold requisite” mandated in the request for proposals (RFP) published by the Housing Department.
The first argument AECom presented was on Adjusters International’s lack of liquidity. The RFP demanded companies have at least $35 million unencumbered. In AECom’s case, the line of credit is $400 million while Adjusters International has only $9 million available.
Beyond the financial aspect, AECom argued in the administrative hearing that Adjusters should have been disqualified for not being authorized to do business with the Puerto Rico Government at the time the proposal was submitted.
“At the time the RFP was submitted, on November 21, in the RFP’s response by Adjusters, they were not authorized to do business in Puerto Rico. When [checking with] the State Department, they requested a permit for foreign companies to do business in Puerto Rico on November 28,” said Antonio Arias, AECom lawyer, pointing out that the procedure needed to have been done prior to submitting the documents to the PRHD.
In addition to the State Department certificate of registration, AECom argued Adjusters International lacks General Service Administration certification, which is required to do business with the government.
As established by the legal representation of AECom, the justification they received for not having obtained the contract for the program was that the cost of their proposal was greater than Adjusters’.
AECom presented an amended bid for $152.5 million and Adjusters International’s amended bid was for $132.8 million. Both proposals are below the $180 million the Federal Emergency Management Agency budgeted for the program.