By Kenneth Ehigiator
The Presidency and House of Representatives Committee on Aviation are now on collision course over the N63.8 billion second runway contract for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
While the Presidency, through the Presidential Project Assessment Committee, PPAC, reviewed the contract cost downward to N49.6bn, the House committee is insisting that the project be cancelled outrightly, stressing that it did not follow due process.
PPAC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Bunu, had said after submitting an interim report on its activities to President Goodluck Jonathan that his committee reviewed the entire project design and contract scope before arriving at the reduction.
But Chairman of the House Committee, Bethel Amadi, said in a statement issued in Johannesburg and sent to aviation journalists, declared that if the bidding process was made open, in line with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, the cost could fall further.
According to him, the presidential committeeâ€™s action is pre-emptive, as the House had earlier passed a resolution calling for a suspension of the contract, which was awarded to Julius Berger Plc.
Amadi said:Â â€œIt is, indeed, a sad development for the growth of democratic norms and values whereby it is expected that the various arms of government would show due respect to each other and work in harmony to ensure good governance.
â€œWithout prejudice to the final outcome of the House deliberations on the Investigative report of the Committee on Aviation, the preliminary report of the committee based on which the House ordered the suspension of the contract noted some breaches.Amadi, who noted that the reduction of the project cost would not affect its project cost, said the adoption of open competitive bidding would enable other companies bid for the job, adding that could further reduce the cost.
â€œIt clearly stated that there were obvious breaches of various sections of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 especially SectionÂ 16 (17), (18), (19), (20), Section 24(3), Section 31(2), (3a,b &c), (6), (11a&b) and Section 33(1) and (2) indicating the potentialÂ breach of due process in the award of contract.
â€œWe therefore wonder how a further price reduction would cure these fundamental breaches of the Public Procurement Act. As the saying goes a house built on sandÂ cannot stand when the rains and floods comeâ€™.
â€œThe whole episode is even more worrisome because the Federal Executive Council had on 12th December 2009 approved the same contract at the sum of N63.8b and is now about to reduce same by a whopping sum of N14.6b only after the House had drawn the attention of the nation to the rather exorbitant cost of the project.â€
He noted that the review came exactly four days after the Investigative Committee empanelled by the House had submitted its report to the House, wondering how a further reduction in price would address the fundamental breaches of the Public Procurement Act.
â€œThe whole episode is even more worrisome because the Federal Executive Council had on 12 December 2009 approved the same contract at the sum of N63.8b and is now about to reduce same by a whopping sum of N14.6b only after the House had drawn the attention of the nation to the rather exorbitant cost of the project, â€œ he said.
Amadi said the committee was convinced the present cost was still too expensive, and charged government to allow the House conclude its report in the nationâ€™s interest.
He said â€œhaving reviewed what it cost to build airports and runways in other places, we agreed that: the method of tendering was faulty.
â€œIt should have been open tendering system, not selective; the figure of N63.5bn is outrageous; and we shall recommend cancellation of the contract to the government.â€