Guam - The keys for ten new 84-passenger school buses were turned over to the Department of Public Works last week, but may be kept off the streets until a protest filed with the OPA's office only 48 hours ago is resolved.

Vehicle distributor Triple J Enterprises, Inc. acknowledges that they may not have been the lowest bidder for the purchase of new school buses - but they do contend that the winning bidder, Morrico Equipment Inc, failed to meet the bid specifications as listed by the General Services Agency. Specifically side emergency door exits and anti-corrosive rivets on all body parts.

In their appeal to the Office of Public Accountability filed on Monday by Triple J president Jeff Jones, Triple J requests GSA reverse the award. This follows their protest with GSA filed last month because Morrico states they complied with all bid specs, when they allegedly did not as Triple J states some specs are not available from the manufacturer. In addition, that DPW personnel pointed out the discrepancies but failed to make the correction prior to shipment. In their notice of appeal Triple J requests Morrico correct the deficiencies or Triple J should be awarded for being the most responsible bidder. As we reported late last month GSA denied Triple J's request for reconsideration resulting in the turning over of keys and DPW director Carl Dominguez's acceptance of the buses.

Also in the appeal, Triple J notes their concerns and the discrepancies could have been avoided had GSA not canceled the pre-bid conference where these issues could have been discussed at an earlier time. Triple J adds that GSA provided an unreasonably short time for questions to be posed and on one occasion refusing to accept a written request for clarification of the bid requirements.

In response, GSA holds its position that the protest has no merit because the award was already made. Triple J contends this is illogical and ignores the fact that they could not have protested prior to the arrival of the buses and that GSA and DPW had every opportunity to reject the buses.

If the award is not reversed and the government feels it is in its best interest to overlook such deficiencies, Triple J is willing to discuss a settlement as compensation for its lost income and extra expenses incurred.

As we've been reporting the ten new buses were purchased through $1.28 million in Department of the Interior funding and would bring the school bus fleet up to 137. Although not the ideal 179 DPW would better operate with, the buses would be an asset to the northern, more populated villages.