Monday, September 25, 2017

Parliament to stop Info Ministry’s tender

Parliament decided yesterday to suspend a large-scale tender for a media-related property following intense criticism, though the Ministry of Information says it will wait for the Cabinet’s decision before halting.

South Okkalapa township representative U Aung Thein Linn submitted an urgent proposal on May 22 to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw to suspend the project, claiming a lack of transparency in the tender process. Critics have claimed the tender, to take over and re-develop the large complex at the site of the Yegu transmitter at the corner of Gandamar and Wai Za Yan Tar Roads in northern Yangon, excludes all but a handful of well-connected local media-related companies.

Parliament decided to suspend the tender yesterday.

“We will wait for the government’s [Cabinet’s] decision for the suspension, and then will follow that decision,” said U Myint Htwe, chief of staff of the Ministry of Information’s permanent secretary office.

An Eleven Media report said the document which contained terms and conditions of the tender is being sold for K1 million (US$908). About 120 acres of the former site of a broadcasting station are up for tender. Some 30 acres are earmarked for MRTV, with the remaining 90 acres to be handed over to the tender winner.

“This means that the tender winner will secure the 90-acre stretch of land, which has potential to become the hub of Yangon and the place of least traffic congestion,” the Eleven Media article said.

The tender winner will be required to install a number a facilities at their own expense, including a media-related business park complete with a broadcasting complex, a studio, a multi-media university, a theme park, a recreation zones, public service areas and sports facilities, including an open stadium with 50,000 seats and an indoor 15,000-seat stadium. The winner must allow two broadcast stations and three studios to continue operating on site. The winner will also be allowed to run businesses such as hotels, guesthouses and commercial buildings on the site.

Businesspeople told The Myanmar Times that the difference between the tender’s announcement on May 15 and its deadline on June 19 is too short for most companies to meet.

Bidders must submit zoning plans for each portion of the project, work plans and implementation programs, detailed methodology, a proposal for technical services, architectural design of the buildings, high-voltage power distribution, estimates and work schedules by the June 19 deadline.

“It is indeed nonsense according to international standards, but, I don’t know, according to the Myanmar way,” said U San Oo, chair of the Association of Myanmar Architects.

“It is too difficult to complete even the designs. It is absolutely impossible. Even if it is a very rushed project, it will take at least four or five months to complete the sketches.”

U Hlaing Oo, chief engineer for state-owned broadcasting enterprise Myanmar Radio and Television, which is to maintain its presence on the site under the terms of the tender, said he is not sure if the current process will allow solid plans to be created for such a large project.

“If the architects have top ability and work intensively, they can probably finish the designs. But for the entire project? I’m not sure, and can’t say, as I’m an electrical engineer.”

While the Ministry of Information has listed a number of criteria the winner needs to meet, there appears to be no formal mechanism for action in case the winner does not fulfill its criteria.

Officials from some of Myanmar’s largest media broadcasting groups have so far remained noncommittal. Eleven Media’s article said that Forever Group, the broadcaster of MRTV-4 and Channel 7, and Shwe Than Lwin, broadcaster of Myanmar National Television (MNTV) are the two most likely bidders.

Forever Group co-founder and member of the board of directors U Khin Maung Htay said he did not want to discuss the project or tender in any way, though confirmed his company would not submit a bid.

“I have no information on whether Shwe Than Lwin will bid on the tender,” said U Than Htike, executive general manager of Shwe Than Lwin’s Sky Net broadcaster. “Such decisions are made by the superior management body of the company.”

The country’s broadcasting sector is not yet fully privatised, with many of the companies currently in the business still maintaining strong government links. Although the tender does not set a deadline to be accomplished, the sustainability of such a large project given the country’s small media business is an open question.

“The country’s broadcasting sector has not even been opened,” said U Soe Myint, founder and chief editor of Mizzima Media. “I’ve heard about the project and tender, but don’t know the details, though it is sure there is a need to develop the infrastructure for broadcast media in the country. But, for our media group, I’m not interested in bidding.”

However, the Ministry of Information’s U Myint Htwe said about five media organisations including FM radio had submitted proposals within the first 12 days of the tender period.

“I can’t provide the details of the bidders, but some print media organisations are included,” he said.