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$44m Escravos contract: Reps order BPP, NPA to produce original copies of bidding documents

Levinus Nwabughiogu

ABUJA-Joint Committee of the House of Representatives on Public Procurement and Port, Harbour & Waterways investigating the controversy surrounding the award of $44 million contract for remedial works at Escravos channel -replacement of navigational aids and minor dredging in Delta state has ordered relevant government agencies to produce the original bidding documents of the contractors.

House of Representatives

Other documents demanded were Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC registration, PENCOM, FIRS, ITF and NSITF certificates of all the participating companies.

The agencies affected were basically the Bureau for Public Procurement BPP and the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.

The Joint Committee Chairman, Hon. Woke Oke gave the directive at a public hearing organised to determine some underhand dealings in the award of the contracts.

A document dated March 6, 2018 had alleged that the controversial contract was reviewed from $44,998,053.76 inclusive VAT to $44,137,007.19 (N13,461,787,194.25).

The House had entertained petitions by Dredging Atlantic Limited alleging a shot-out by the government agencies which eventually awarded the contract to Dredging International Services as against due process

The Managing Director of Dredging Atlantic Limited, Adeyemo Abiodun said that they were shortchanged and the development caused them them contract.

According to him, the figures were altered every letter written to the authorities to explain the situation were not replied.

Similarly, a Non International Governmental Organization, NGO, Cadrell Advocacy Centre had also petitioned the House of Representatives, alleging that was not qualified to bid and execute the contract.

Represented by its Director, Evans Ufeli, the NGO prayed the House Committee to deliver justice on the matter.

A document from the NGO read thus “Dredging International Services Nigeria Limited, was in fact and indeed a convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction in Switzerland and awarding the contract to the said company would be contrary to the clear provisions of S. 16(8e & f) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

“Dear Hon. Members of this esteemed committee, it is a notorious fact that documents available at the Swiss Embassy, reveal that there was an investigation by the office of the Attorney General, Department of International Affaire, Switzerland that Dredging International Services Ltd/Dredging International Services Cyprus (both subsidiaries of DEME Group Belgium and some officials of NPA were alleged to have been involved in a bribe for contract scandal of $20,000 and subsequently convicted on the 2nd of May, 2012 and fined one million Swizz francs, by the Court for bribing Nigerian officials.

“As reported in organised crime and corruption reporting project, an international magazine, NPA awards dredging contract worth $70,000 each year to Dredging International Services, without competitive bidding, as required by the Nigeria laws. And till date this convicted company is believed to have won jibs worth at least N717 billion and $2.280 billion from NPA.”

Ufeli also urged that the House should “invoke her powers under section 88 and 89 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) to blacklist/disqualify Dredging International Services Ltd and any convicted company from budding for or executing contracts in Nigeria.”

But in defence of its company, the Legal Adviser of Dredging International Service Nig. Limited, Franklin Peterside denied the allegations that the company was convicted in Switzerland.

He further explained that there was no connection between Dredging International Services Nigeria Limited and the convicted company which was registered in Cyprus.

In his presentation, Director General of Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) argued that the correction in the bid should have been made known to the company concerned, adding that signing of the bid document was not substantial to disregard or cancel a bid because it was to ensure transparency.

He hinted that the BPP was not part of the process as there was no formal invitation from the NPA.

In her response, the NPA Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman dismissed the allegations, saying the agency followed due process.

She stressed  that the agency was guided by the Public Procurement Act but noted that necessary legal actions have been taken in respect of the exercise.

She also however assured that relevant documents would be submitted to the joint committee.

The Committee later adjourned.

 

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