Reps probe N19.2b eastern railway line contract
Elumelu alleges phony firm secured job
The House of Representatives, yesterday, ordered an immediate probe into the N19.2 billion contract for rehabilitation of the 463-kilometre Port Harcourt-Makurdi section of the eastern railway line.
The chamber, presided over by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, resolved to raise an ad hoc committee for the task, with the report expected in four weeks.
House Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, who moved the motion that led to the resolution, noted that the contract was awarded to one Eser Contracting and Industry Company Incorporated in March 2011.
But he claimed that the information at his disposal showed that the firm was not duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as required by the Procurement Act.
The Delta lawmaker further alleged that the contract had been considered failed and abandoned, adding that speculations were rife that government was allegedly planning to re-award the job to another company without holding anyone culpable for “regulatory lapses and corruption.”
Elumelu insisted that the “firm neither have the required tax clearance nor audited statement of account for the preceding three years, and therefore had no legal capacity to do business in Nigeria.”
He continued: “Further aware that in the invitation to bid advert for the contract placed in the November-December 2010 edition of the federal tenders journal, certificate of incorporation was a major requirement listed as one of the criteria needed to bid for the job, but surprisingly, the railway corporation, the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) and the Presidency, all brushed aside this requirement, in the consideration of Eser Contracting and Industry Company Incorporated for the job.
“Worried that the BPP, which is charged with the responsibilities of preventing fraudulent and unfair procurement as well as applying administrative sanctions where necessary, failed in its responsibility by issuing a certificate of No Objection to clear the way for the railway corporation to award a job of such magnitude to a company without any legal status.
“The then Minister of Transportation, Yusuf Sulaiman, relied on this certificate issued by the BPP in requesting for approval for the award of the contract from the Federal Executive Council then led by (former) President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Further worried that after the contract was awarded in March 2011, the promoters of Eser Contracting and Industry Company Incorporated, knowing that they have deceitfully gotten the contract, devised a way to smoothen the irregularities by registering Eser West Africa Limited in June 2011, three months after the contract had been awarded and the new company continued dealing with present day government officials without any form of questioning on the sudden change of name.
“Further disturbed that if these consistent abuses of procurement laws and incessant corrupt practices by government agents are not put to checks, it will continue to ridicule the fight against corruption as canvassed by Mr. President and the country would be brought to disrepute amongst sister nations.”
The rehabilitation work was split into three sections namely, 463km Port Harcourt-Makurdi track, 1016km Makurdi -Kuru track and 640km Kuru-Maiduguri track. The job was awarded to three different companies, he added.