By Omar Bah
The Ministry of Works and the OIC Gambia Secretariat have strongly rejected allegations of corruption and irregularities in the bidding process for the Sting Corner – airport road project, also called the Bertil Harding Highway.
The OIC Gambia Secretariat announced opening of bids in 2018 with bidders purchasing a bidding document for a non-refundable fee of D50,000.
However according to an impeccable source, there was “no official correspondence from OIC after the bidding document was procured, filled and submitted while another bid about the same project was announced by National Road Authority which is unfair to the companies who first procured the bidding document”.
“It is understood that a lot of money is made from selling the bidding document which costs D50,000 and companies used a lot of resources to go through the bidding process and therefore it is grossly unfair to procure a bidding document twice for the same project,” our source alleged.
According to the same source, all the bidders submitted their biddings but “no contact was made until February 2021 when they made a similar bid announcement for the same project, increasing the amount by two folds to $1,500”.
Our source further alleged that more than 20 companies applied but it was later realised that the bidding was discriminatory because companies from Arab member countries were given 10 percent of total point requirement.
“It was later discovered that they were fighting for one company based in The Gambia and the affected companies complained to the NRA but they ignored the complaint. They then asked for a bid security document but in order to get the bid security from any local bank in The Gambia, one must spend nothing less than $30,000 as processing fee and if you miss the deadline, you are disqualified. This information was never contained in the official announcement made in many Gambian newspapers,” our source added.
After all these things, our source went on, many companies backed off suspecting corruption in the whole process.
“The last straw came when at least one NRA staff sitting in the bidding committee was discovered to be working for a company which is among the bidders,” the source alleged.
NRA, Works react
The National Roads Authority MD, Momodou Senghore declined to comment on the matter and instead referred us to the works ministry.
The Standard contacted the permanent secretary, ministry of works Mod Ceesay about these allegations who said the fee the NRA charged for the tender is perfectly in line. “As far as I know, the fee of bidding documents is a standard practice and is allowed under the new GPPA regulations and the fee [$1500] was reasonable, given the scope of the contract,” he said.
On the alleged conflict of interest by an NRA staff accused of consulting for a local company and at the same time serving in the bidding committee, PS Ceesay said he has no such information.
Also reacting to the allegations, the OIC head of brand and communications, Nfally Fadera said: “I can confirm that in 2019 the Secretariat conducted a pre-qualification for contractors and a request for expression of interest for consultants relating to the construction of the Bertil Harding highway where different local and international companies participated. However, that process was annulled due to the introduction of new modalities concerning the implementation of the project by the funding partner.
“Consequently, the role of the Secretariat changed from project implementation to coordination allowing government agencies like the National Roads Authority to take the lead. Even though the fee for the tender documents was labeled non-refundable, the Secretariat took it upon itself to open a dedicated line of communication to respond to all inquiries regarding that process. The latest bidding for the 22km road project was an entirely new exercise and 19 companies including those that participated previously took part,” he said.
Fadera added that when the new bidding process commenced, a request for proposal was floated publicly in media houses and online to give equal opportunity to all interested parties.
“The public tender process is transparent and conducted under the auspices of an inter-governmental committee including the Office of the President, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, National Roads Authority, Ministry of Transport, Works, and Infrastructure, and The Gambia OIC Secretariat. Additionally, independent observers were identified from The Gambia Public Procurement Authority, Gamworks, Gambridge Project, and The Gambia OIC Secretariat to ensure full transparency and fairness.”