NPA denies corruption charges against it

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Managing Director, Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala-Usman, has dismissed allegation of corruption in the award of $44.86million (N16.150 billion) Warri Channel dredging contract to Dredging International Services Nigeria (DISN) Limited, insisting that the agency followed due process.

DISN is a subsidiary of Dredging International Services (Cyprus) Limited, the company that was convicted by the Swiss Government and fined one million Swiss francs by the court for bribing ex- officials of the NPA.

The NPA, Dredging International Services Nigeria and Dredging Atlantic Limited (DAL) are currently embroiled in disagreement over the Warri channel contract.

Speaking at a media briefing in Lagos, Usman maintained that NPA was guided by the Public Procurement Act in the award of the contract, stating that the agency would not succumb to any blackmail by Dredging Atlantic Limited through advertorials or any means to conform to their petition.

She said, “Through the course of the procurement process, we had a petition that was submitted to us that a company that was prequalified for the contract has been convicted.

‘‘In fact, when it happened that the company that was convicted was our partner in our joint venture, we submitted the conviction documents to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), drawing his attention to the fact that the company has been convicted, the issues of the conviction and the persons that monies were paid to.

“The conviction is attributable to payments that were made to certain individuals within the NPA, Federal Ministry of Transportation and other agencies to facilitate payment of invoices from NPA.  The deposition that they provided to the Swiss court was that the Nigerian port refused to pay them their joint venture invoices, demanding for payments.‘‘They also listed payments that were made to militants in the Niger Delta to enable them have access to their dredging works. With that, the Swiss court sanctioned them and convicted them for making payment outside of the contract.

“A year after a subsidiary of the company bided for works with the NPA. In the course of the tender process; we had a petition that they were so convicted. They had submitted to us a sworn affidavit that they were not the company convicted.

‘‘We proceeded with our tender processes and made submissions to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). BPP directed us to do an independent investigation of the affidavit they gave. We hired a law firm which did the investigation and made submission that the company is a subsidiary of the company that was convicted.

‘‘We were made to understand that the company that bided for the contract has a different legal personality and a different legal profile. The directors of the company during the conviction of the subsidiary are not the same directors of this company.

“I am very mindful of ensuring that we are in compliance with the procurement processes. We submitted everything we did to BPP and they so guided us. Upon submission of the independent investigation, BPP also conducted their own investigation and came back to us that both investigations carried out are inline so proceed with your procurement process and that are what we have done. We are not going to be blackmailed to conform to what they want.”

She stated that the company accusing NPA of fraud in the award of the contract was the same company the agency cancelled its Calabar Channel dredging contract for making financial claims on jobs not done.

“The company had made claims of payment of $21 million of work that they did not do, and we could not verify, so we terminated the contract. We are in court with them, asking them to refund $12 million that was paid to them.

“The company also was engaged through a process that was not in compliance with the BPP Act. There was a letter from the Director-General of the BPP that the company’s appointment was a gross violation of the BPP Act, and that the President was misadvised and should never have signed off the joint venture with the company that is now petitioning us,” she said.

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