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NPA denies dredging bid fraud at Escravos Channel

By Godwin Oritse, Godfrey Bivbere & Eguono Odjegba

NPA rakes in N118 in 7 months, begins moves for ISO certification
T
he management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)  has denied  any wrong doing in the bid process leading to award of the dredging of the Warri Port Channel to favour any bidder.   Reacting to the allegation of process fraud brought against it by one of the project bidders, Dredging Atlantic Limited, the Authority maintained that the bid process was transparently carried out and urged the complainant to desist from misleading the public and accept its defeat in good faith without attempts at mudslinging.

Escravos Channel

The Managing Director of the NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, last weekend told Journalists that she has said that the same dredging firm handled the Calabar port channel, and made a mess of the project.

Usman said that the firm had capacity in terms of equipment to dredge Escravos channel in Warri adding that government was trying to recover some of the monies paid to the firm for no work done.

Dredging Atlantic Limited through its legal representative, Mr. Liborous Oshoma, last week accused the NPA of tinkering with its financial bid tender and those of others, including Dredging International Services Nigeria, which won the Escravos Channel dredging bid.   According to Oshoma, Dredging Atlantic Limited emerged first in the technical bid with 89 points, against 75 points scored by Dredging International Services of Nigeria, an affiliate of Dredging International Limited, based in Cyprus.

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He added that his client also won the commercial bid with a bid of $44.880million as against $44.998million by the competitor, even as he claimed that the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) has queried NPA and indicted its management for carrying out ‘arithmetic correction’ in the figures of financial tenders   of both Dredging International Services of Nigeria and Dredging Atlantic Limited, as part of the evaluation process to ensure that tender prices are correct and that bidders are properly ranked.

It turned out, however, that BPP did frown at what it termed administrative lapses in the bid review by NPA, it did not however uphold the complainant’s position that the bid process was flawed.

The BPP in a letter with reference   BPP/S.1/A&WR/18/VOL.1/079, dated March 23,2018, read in part, “This is to refer to the Dredging Atlantic Limited letter of complaint dated February 28, 2018, which requested for an administrative review of the NPA with respect to the tender for remedial works at Escravos Channel-Replacement of Navigational Aids and Mirror Dredging at Delta Port Notice No-4012, over various acts of non-compliance with the requirements of the Public Procurement Act (PPA), 2007.

Hadiza Bala Usma

“Be informed that the Bureau received a request for Due Process Certificate of “Non Objection” from NPA for award of this project and that the request has already been reviewed and certified by the above and in accordance with Sec. 54 of the PPA, 2007, the Bureau has considered the complaints raised in your letter and wishes to comment as follows: the NPA carried out arithmetic corrections on the financial tenders of both Dredging International Services of Nigeria and Dredging Atlantic Limited as part of the evaluation process to ensure that tender prices are correct and that bidders are properly ranked.

“Sec. 31 (4) of the PPA, 2007 supports correction of arithmetic errors. The NPA however failed to communicate the outcome to the affected bidders in line with sec. 35 (5) of the PPA, 2007.

This procedural lapse has already been communicated to the NPA to ensure compliance in subsequent procurements but is not grievous enough to warrant nuIIifying the tender exercise.”

The BPP added, “Messrs DAL alleged that the NPA refused the DAL/its representatives to countersign on all vital pages of the tender of Messrs DISN. The Bureau observed this lapse during the prior review exercise on this procurement proceeding and drew the attention of the NPA to Clause 60 of the Public Procurement Regulations for goods and works, and advised the NPA to ensure strict compliance with this procedure in subsequent procurements in order to enhance transparency and ensure that there are no substitutions of bids after submission.”

But Dredging Atlantic Limited, through its attorney, Oshoma, insisted that NPA manipulated the bid in favour of DISN, even as Oshama accused the BPP of also failing to look into its complaints thoroughly and professionally.

Oshoma said the Bureau’s analysis only captured Items Nos 3.0,1 & 3. 0.2 in DAW Bid total value in Naira without splitting same in Naira and US Dollars, thus increasing the Naira component of DAW’s Bid whilst decreasing the US Dollars component of the same Bid, thereby arriving at a wrong conclusion.

He stated: “Also, in the same item 3.01 & 3.0.2 we observed that the Bureau imputed a unit rate of N41,216.22 Naira   and $135.14 US Dollars, also N82,432.35 Naira and $270.27 Dollars   respectively for DISN even when it was stated clearly and obvious from the procuring entity’s Solicitation document that the items has no Unit/Quantity. One begins to wonder where NPA and or the Bureau got the said Unit price they multiplied by Quantity in their analysis from. This further confirms our suspicion of Bid rigging against us.

“On the issues, assuming DISN sought clarification from NPA as inferred by the Bureau in their conclusions, then correspondingly by virtue of S.23 (6) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, NPA ought to have communicated any response to such request to Bidders as is the practice in Bid Tendering globally.

“How come the lowest bidder as publicly announced Dredging Atlantic Limited/West Minister Dredging (DAW) had “errors” and or additional   figures (increase) of N11,709,932.84 ($38,393.23) to arrive at $44,918,741.22 as against the publicly announced figure of $44,880,348.21, while the highest bidder Dredging International Services Limited had “errors”   and or subtracted figures (a reduction) of $136,456.95 (N41,619,369.75) to arrive at $44,861,596.81 as against the announced figure of $44,998,053.76?

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA has realized a total of N118billion in the first seven months of this year, against N113billion in the whole of last year.

Disclosing this during a visit to  Vanguard Newspapers office in Lagos last week, Managing Director of the NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, said that despite the lull in ship calls and cargo throughput, the agency was able to realize this amount within seven months.

Hadiza also disclosed that 2016 was the year for the authority as it recorded the least cargo throughput since the ports were concessioned.

She said that with current financial profile of the NPA, there is every likelihood that it will surpass its revenue target for the year.

Meanwhile, Ports Authority has commenced moves toward International Standard Organisation, ISO, certification.

Bala Usman said that the agency is very excited about the moves adding that when the certification is achieved, it will put the entire port industry on a different pedestal.

“We are very excited about this ISO certification thing and we will ensure that we get it as this will make us better and attract more investment and possibly more cost effective port operation” she stated.

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