Same hospital laundry tender presented in six months…what’s up with that?
In September 2022, The Ministry of Health and Wellness announced that it is looking for a capable service provider to take on the laundry services of the regional hospitals in Orange Walk, Belmopan, and Dangriga. The contract winner would have to wash, clean, iron, and professionally fold all the linen at each of the hospitals. Now that service, before September last year was being provided by Belize Dry Cleaners Limited, a company owned by Lascelle Arnold and his family. Arnold, as we reported last year, invested in developing his business into a professional service and last year, the company was awarded the contract. It was directly competing with two other companies, who we have since learned, had not been completely set up yet. But interestingly, we saw in the papers this week that the very same tender announcement in September was in this week’s local papers. One of those companies, we are told, is closely connected to the current administration and one of its principals sits on an important statutory board. It appears that reissuing the tender not only shoves Arnold and Belize Dry Cleaners aside but may make room for that preferred company to receive the contract, which is twice as much as Arnold’s bid. In an interview with Health Minister, Kevin Bernard, we asked him squarely: what’s up with that? Here’s what he had to say.
Hon. Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “I will not get into Mr.Lascelle Arnold’s cry over whether he can continue to live an empire of providing or a monopoly over services. I believe in fair competition and that’s one thing I will say and I will not get into the details but Mr.Lascelle was given extensions. The Ministry has decided that we are going to retender, we are going to put out to tender by lots countrywide for the supply of laundry. Now when those tenders go out if he meets the criteria then so be it but we want to ensure that there is fairness in this thing. Man we cannot continue to always think that because a monopoly exists a monopoly should survive all the time. Don’t we want competition ? Don’t we want better service? Don’t we want reduced cost ? That’s what we should aim at and I will leave that there.”
Reporter: So there’s no conflict of interest with the statement that the tender is being given to the company that has affiliation with this administration ? I think that was the biggest issue there on the part of Mr.Arnold.
Hon. Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “Should I ask him what was his relation with the past administration ? Maybe he should answer that question.”