The House of Representatives, on Monday, unveiled plans to investigate the N19.2 billion contract for the rehabilitation of the 463km Port Harcourt – Makurdi section of the eastern railway line which was awarded to ESER Contracting Industry Company Incorporated in March 2011.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion sponsored by the Minority Leader, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, stressed the need to put end to consistent abuse of procurement laws and incessant corrupt practices by government agents, which he observed may ridicule the fight against corruption as canvassed by Mr President if left unchecked.
In his lead debate, Hon Elumelu who called for the House intervention explained that the railway rehabilitation work was divided into three sections namely, 463km Port Harcourt- Makurdi track, 1016km Makurdi – Kuru track and 640km Kuru – Maiduguri track and the three sections were awarded to three different companies.
“The House is aware that there are allegations that while carrying out due diligence on Eser contracting and industry company incorporated, it was discovered that the company was not in existence as it was not duly registered with the corporate affairs commission as required by the procurement act neither did it have the required tax clearance nor an audited statement of account for the preceding three years and therefore had no legal capacity to do business in Nigeria.
“The House is further aware that in the invitation to bid advert for the contract placed in the November-December 2010 edition of the federal tenders journal, the 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 and the presidency, all brushed aside this requirement in the consideration of Eser contracting and industry company incorporated for the job.
“The House is worried that the Bureau for Public Procurement (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 President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The House is 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.
“The House is disturbed that the contract is now considered failed and abandoned and there are allegations that the government have gone far with plans to re-award the job to another company without certainties that anyone will be made accountable for the regulatory failures and corporate fraud that characterisd the charade.
“The House is further disturbed that if these consistent abuses of procurement laws and incessant corrupt practices by government agents are not put to check, it will continue to ridicule the fight against corruption as canvassed by Mr President and the country brought to disrepute amongst sister nations,” he stressed.
To this end, the House resolved to set up an Ad-hoc Committee that will investigate the allegation and report back within 6 weeks for further legislative action.
Reps to probe N19.2bn railway rehabilitation contract