Warri Channel dredging contract followed due process--NPA

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has declared that it followed due process as guided by the Public Procurement Act in the award of a $44.861 USD (N16.150 billion) Warri Channel dredging contract to Dredging International Services Nigeria (DISN) Limited, a subsidiary of Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Limited.

That was the NPA’s position against the allegation that it awarded the dredging contract to a company that had been convicted by a court in Switzerland.
It would be recalled that Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Ltd., was convicted by a Swiss Court for bribing ex- officials of the NPA, to facilitate some contract payments.
Briefing newsmen in Lagos at the weekend on the development, Managing Director of the NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, said that during the bid process, the NPA sent all relevant documents to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to clarify a petition it received against the company before proceeding.

She said: “in the course of the procurement process, we had a petition submitted to us that a company that had prequalified had been convicted. Being mindful of the fact we are aware of the conviction, in fact, when the company was convicted, that happens to be a partner in our JV, we submitted the conviction document to the EFCC, and also to the Attorney-General of the Federation, drawing his attention to the fact that the company had been convicted and these are the issues of the conviction and the persons that monies were paid to.

“Just to talk about the conviction, it is attributable to a payment that was made to certain individuals within the NPA and the Federal Ministry of Transportation and other agencies, to facilitate payment of invoices from NPA.

“The information they provided from the Swiss Court is that Nigerian Ports refused to pay them their JV invoices, demanding for payment, and they had to make payments to certain people.

“They also listed that because they operate in Bonny they were asked to pay for security to enable them access to their dredging work. And they listed the people that they paid the money.  With that, the Swiss Court now sanction them and convicted them for making payments outside of the JV.

“Upon receipt of that conviction document, I forwarded it to the EFCC with all the attendant attachment, listing the beneficiaries of those payments asking them to investigate further. The company had submitted to us a sworn Notary affidavit that they were not the company that was convicted.

“We proceeded with our tender process and submitted the letter to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), and the BPP directed us to do an independent investigation of the affidavit again, which we did through a law firm.

The MD, however, stated that the allegation of corruption in the contract award came from a company whose dredging contract the NPA had terminated due to incompetence and lack of transparency.

She said: “If you recall, we terminated the Calabar dredging, we terminated the joint venture. The company had made claims of payment of $21 million USD form work that they did not do. We could not verify, so we terminated the contract. We called them and asked that they paid back FG’s $12 million USD that was paid to them. Also, the company was engaged through a process that was not in compliance with the public procurement act.

“In fact, there was a letter from the DG BPP, where he wrote that this company’s appointment was in gross violation of the public procurement act. The president was advised he should never have signed up the JV with this company that is now petitioning us.

“On the one hand, I am very mindful and ensure that we are in compliance with public procurement processes; everything we did we submitted to BPP, BPP so guided us and provided us with everything.”

But legal counsel for Dredging Atlantic Limited(DAL), Mr. Liboros Oshoma, had claimed in some media reports that the Calabar dredging job that the NPA referred to was awarded to Niger Global by NPA on a PPP arrangement, and not DAL or its partners.
He was quoted as saying that “Neither Dredging Atlantic Limited nor our technical partners, West Minister Dredging were part of the Calabar dredging bidding process.”