Nova’s exact bid raises eyebrows

Nova Corp. in Osaka, the nation’s largest English school chain, won a public tender for an Osaka Municipal Board of Education program to dispatch assistant language teachers to municipal middle schools in spring 2006 with a price matching the closed ceiling price of 54,850,200 yen, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

A board official said the matching prices were purely coincidental. The board, however, plans to investigate whether information about the tender had been leaked, since the bids matched within a margin of only 100 yen.

The firm also won other public tenders for a similar program for primary schools with bids of 95 to 98 percent of the ceiling prices.

According to the board, three firms, including Nova, participated in public bidding to supply ALTs to 116 middle schools and other schools on March 17, 2006. However, the tender was unsuccessful as all three firms placed bids higher than the target price. The board conducted the second public tender, with a higher target price, the following month. Two firms, including Nova, which had participated in the first tender, and another firm placed bids, with Nova’s matching the ceiling price.

Public tenders for a similar program at 299 municipal primary schools were held by dividing the schools into three groups based on their location on March 17, 2006. Nova’s bid for one group–6.55 million yen, and 98 percent of the ceiling price–was successful, but there were no winning bids for the other two groups.

Nova won one of two tenders held on April 25 the same year, with a bid of 4.59 million yen, 95 percent of the ceiling price, while another firm won a tender for another group with a bid that was 83 percent of the ceiling price.

The board official told a Yomiuri Shimbun reporter that contracts for the programs had to be made quickly because the new term had already begun, but denied the possibility of the leak.

The official also insisted the results of the tenders were coincidental, saying: “If the information of the closed planned price had leaked, would Nova have matched the contract price [down to the hundreds of yen] as doing so was sure to raise questions?”