Reps probe award of $44m contract to ‘convicted’ company
Minister reprimands contractors on N’Delta projects
The House of Representatives has expressed concern over the award of a $44 million contract to a company allegedly convicted in Switzerland.The deal was for a remedial work at Escravos Channel, replacement of navigational aids, and minor dredging in Delta State.
This came at a hearing, following a petition by Cadrell Advocacy Centre, a non-governmental organisation (NGO).“Dredging International Services Nigeria Limited (Dredging Int’l) was in fact and indeed convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction in Switzerland. Awarding the contract to the said company would be contrary to the clear provisions of Section 16(8e & f) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007,” the NGO claimed.
It said: “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 Affairs, Switzerland, that Dredging International Services Ltd/Dredging International Services Cyprus (both subsidiaries of DEME Group Belgium) and some officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) were alleged to have been involved in a bribe-for-contract scandal of $20,000 and subsequently convicted on May 2, 2012 and fined SFr1 million by the court for bribing Nigerian officials.”
The group further noted: “As reported in Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), an international magazine, NPA awards dredging contract worth $70,000 each year to Dredging Int’l, without competitive bidding as required by Nigerian laws. And till date, this convicted company is believed to have won jobs worth at least N717 billion and $2.280 billion from NPA.”
Calling for the intervention of the House, Cadrell Advocacy Centre, represented by its Executive Director, Evans Ufeli, urged the House to “invoke her powers under Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to blacklist/disqualify Dredging Int’l and any convicted company from bidding for or executing contracts in Nigeria.”
But Franklin Peterside, Legal Adviser to Dredging Int’l, denied the company was convicted in Switzerland. He said there was no connection between Dredging Int’l and the convicted company registered in Cyprus. He said the petition was speculative and that none of the company’s directors was convicted anywhere in the world.
Documents dated March 6, 2018 and submitted to the joint House Committee on Public Procurement and Ports, Harbour and Waterways, chaired by Wole Oke (PDP, Osun), showed that the controversial contract was reviewed from $44,998,053.76 VAT inclusive of $44,137,007.19 (N13,461,787,194.25) by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
The Managing Director of Dredging Atlantic Limited, Adeyemo Abiodun, explained that the company wrote the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and NPA concerning the figures, alleging they were manipulated. He accused the regulatory bodies of favouring Dredging Int’l, which submitted higher quotation at the opening of the bid.
BPP’s Director General, Mamman Ahmadu, argued that the correction in the bid should have been made known to the company concerned. He said signing of the bid document was not substantial enough to disregard or cancel a bid because it was done to ensure transparency. He denied participating in the bid, saying the awarding agency (NPA) did not send any formal invitation for the exercise.
NPA’s Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman, denied the allegation, saying the agency maintains an anti-corruption stance in its operations. She said the Public Procurement Act guides the NPA and that necessary legal actions have been taken in respect of the exercise. She assured that relevant documents would be transmitted to the joint committee.
Disturbed by the allegations of infractions and forgery of bids submitted against the regulatory agencies and the preferred bidder, the lawmakers requested the original bid documents of all the companies, including CAC registration, PENCOM, FIRS, ITF and NSITF certificates.
The summary of the evaluation of the technical bids (involving 22 companies) showed that some presented expired PENCOM, ITF, IRR and TCC audited accounts.According to the report, three companies: Dredging Atlantic Limited, Dredging Int’l and China Civil Engineering Construction Nig. Ltd (CCECC) were described as having scored above pre-qualification threshold. CCECC, however, was not pre-qualified.Oke, who chaired the hearing, described the allegations as “very, very serious.”
The Minister for Niger Delta, Usani Usani, also condemned the quality of jobs done by some contractors. He expressed the disapproval at the weekend, while inspecting some rural roads in Cross River State.He told the contractors: “I will not say I am very satisfied with the extent of work. I am not a professional engineer. But from physical sighting, I see some defects in the constructions. I call on the contractors to correct them or we will have to take some measures.”
At the Adim-Abaribara Road site in Adim, Biase Local Government Area, he noted: “Our approach to road construction is according to budgetary provision rather than a bogus job that may be tagged as ongoing without any part being completed.” Reacting to the minister’s comments, the head of Beachstone Construction Limited, said: “That is his observation. By and large, the road has been done, and it is a good job. But there is always room for improvement. All issues raised by the minister have been noted and will be addressed.”
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