By Jacob Nakamura
Since 2020 started, the Department of Education purchased $812,754.43 in PPEs, and executive line agencies purchased $66,451.68 in PPEs and clothes from Bic Sobti. Mr. Sobti is the owner of International Royal, Inc, also known as Royal Bics. It is a clothing and tailor store.
The General Services Agency, which conducts procurement of the government's line agencies (generally, the non-autonomous agencies under the direct control of the governor), disclosed the purchase orders made to Royal Bics since 2020 started. Of the 17 purchase orders issued from the Department of Labor, Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, Department of Public Health and Social Services, and the Bureau of Statistics and Plans, five were made using the governor's emergency procurement powers.
Those five purchase orders included the sale of a $340 sneeze guard that another vendor was selling for only $220; $213.88 for 24 rolls of paper towel, three boxes of face masks (50 per box), and 12 bottles of hand sanitizers; $616.64 for 90 rolls of paper towel, four boxes of face masks, and 36 bottles of hand sanitizers; $9,990 for 200 oximeters; and $8,500 for 100 infrared thermometers.
Taxpayers foot the bill for employee uniforms, too
Unlike public and private school parents, who have been forced to purchase their children's school uniforms from Mr. Sobti and his competitors, it appears the taxpayers foot the bill for some GovGuam employees's uniforms.
GBHWC spent $3,491.40 at Royal Bics on 36 polo shirts, 36 pairs of pants, and 3 pairs of shoes just two days before the public health emergency started. The agency's emblem is embroidered onto the shirts's sleeves, according to Purchase Order No. P206A02866.
In the middle of the public health emergency, on July 31, 2020, DPHSS purchased 35 grey blazers "with embroidery logo wash & wear, no lining, shoulder pads optional," and 175 pairs of charcoal grey pants for $13,989.50.
While storefronts were selling disinfectant sprays at retail in the price range of $6.99 to $12.99 a spray can, Mr. Sobti sold BSP a package of 500 spray cans for a bulk price of $9.95, though other vendors submitted price quotes undercutting Royal Bics.
Bic's invasion of DOE
Education superintendent Jon Fernandez provided Kandit a list of 16 purchase orders issued by DOE for the purchase of PPEs and medical supplies for use by DOE staff, teachers, and students in the new school year. Of the 16, Royal Bics was awarded six contracts totaling $812,754.43.
Here is the breakdown:
$90,568.53 for hand sanitizers
$12,495.00 for N95 masks and alcohol wipes
$150,295 for thermal body scanner and camera
$209,089.55 for rubbing alcohol
$158,400 for disposable masks
$191,906.35 for gloves and eye goggles for nurses.
Of note is the fact that DOE only employs 44 nurses. When asked why 44 people would need $191,906.35 worth of gloves and eye goggles, Mr. Fernandez said: "I can get a breakdown of that requisition."
Mr. Fernandez also said he will instruct his staff to provide the full procurement record for the Royal Bics purchases this coming week.
"These purchases were made utilizing the small purchase procedure in order to supply the opening months of the school year," Mr. Fernandez said. "This procedure requires us to seek a minimum three quotes from vendors in order to ensure competition."
During the board of education's July meeting, where DOE officials unveiled their plans to the board for the start of the school year, board chairwoman Maria Gutierrez lamented the pressure board members were receiving from Mr. Sobti to make uniforms mandatory for schools so that his company could continue to supply the uniforms and charge parents.
Ms. Gutierrez led the charge against that, and the board unanimously suspended the uniform requirement for this school year.