The Vocational Training Council failed to follow protocols and was unfair in a tendering process last year, the Office of the Ombudsman said yesterday. It said the council had favoured a baking equipment supplier by approving its non-conforming bid and allowing it to change the bidding terms after the tender closed. The council said it did not agree with the conclusion and no one would be disciplined. But it agreed there were flaws in its procedures that needed to be corrected. The Ombudsman launched the investigation after another supplier complained. According to the report, the supplier said it received an invitation on November 15 last year to tender for the supply of four items for one of the council's campuses holding an anniversary celebration and open day on December 9. The campus was not named but the Institute of Vocational Education in Kwun Tong celebrated its 30th anniversary on that date. The tender closed on November 18 and the equipment had to be delivered by November 30. Of 11 suppliers invited, only one, code-named 'K' in the report, made an offer. The others refrained as they could not deliver on time. The probe found K's offer listed only three of the required four items. It sent in a second bid after the tender was closed, with all the equipment listed but the fourth item, a stirrer costing HK$25,000, to be delivered in six to eight weeks. The bid was approved the next day, after a verbal agreement that K would deliver the stirrer on time. Yet eventually a stirrer of a different model was lent to the council under another verbal deal. None of the agreements were recorded. The investigation also found that two council staff had visited K while suppliers were being sought so they knew before the tender closed that it would have some of the required equipment. Senior Investigation Officer Paggy Ng Yuen-yee yesterday said the whole process gave K favour, as the council already knew the company would have the equipment under stringent timelines throughout the tendering process. She also said the council should have retendered for the stirrer instead of just asking K to issue a supplementary quotation. 'The offer from K was non-conforming and should not have been approved in the first place,' she said. 'All exchanges between the council and the supplier should have been recorded.' Ombudsman Alice Tai Yuen-ying also said the council's explanation for skipping protocol in the process because of urgency was not an excuse. 'It's an anniversary celebration and they should have seen it coming,' she said. Council spokesman Lui Hong said the staff involved had just been in a rush to finish the preparations. But he admitted there were flaws in the process and the council would try to improve in the future. Random checks on tenders would also be done, he said.