Firms Scramble For 2021 Federal Project Execution

Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The Federal Cooperative College Oji River in Enugu state was the venue for the bid opening for contracting firms who responded to the invitation for tender for the execution of some projects across the country as advertised in some national dailies in the recent past. The companies and representatives of other firms who observed the bid opening, did not mince words in concurring that the whole process was transparent and in accordance with the principle of due process and devoid of any form of corrupt tendencies.  That was the situation at the college auditorium as prospective contractors signed their names in the register with strict observance of the COVID-19 prevention protocols prior to the bid opening proper.
The ceremony which was chaired and spearheaded by the Provost of the Federal Cooperative College Oji River Dr. Owan O. Tonica but represented by the Deputy Provost of the institution, Mr. Ede Alakere Lincoln, saw many contracting companies that bid for the execution of various projects, travel far and wide to participate in the exercise with hope that their companies would be shortlisted for the jobs to be executed across the country.  Some of the bids which included constituency projects from national assembly members as well as other core federal government projects were up for contests as all listened with avid attentiveness to the companies that bid for a particular project(s).
The Provost who delivered his remarks on the occasion through his Deputy, underscored the importance of the bid opening process. The institution’s  helmsman noted that all the items were thoroughly sealed and enveloped properly to avoid apprehension and that the companies in attendance attested to the fact that none of the items were toyed or tampered with until they were unsealed before the very presence of the intending contractors. The Provost who stressed the need for strict adherence to the COVID-19 precautions in the course of the exercise, maintained that the bid opening ceremony marked the commencement of contract awards for 2021 as advertised in the federal tender journal and other national dailies.
He said it was hoped that the intending contractors complied with the requirements in the advertisement which he said would serve as guarantee for the companies to secure contracts. The Provost however admonished participating firms in the bid opening not to be demoralized if their firms were not selected for the contracts but to try again when such opportunity presented itself. Declaring the bid opening officially open, the Provost of the college stressed the dire need for social distancing compulsorily amongst the contractors in line with the federal government strategy to curtail spread of the deadly coronavirus disease.
Thereafter the Director of Procurement in the institution Mr. Paul Eneh stressed that the bid opening process must be done in accordance with the Procurement Act and that the contractors must meet the requirements for contract awards coupled with verification of documents submitted for scrutiny. According to the Head of Procurement, tax clearance was one of the most veritable qualifications for the award of contracts and that any contractor who does not have his tax clearance certificate has invariably screened himself out of the bidding process because he was of the opinion that all the laid down procedures for contract awards and execution must be followed hook, line and sinker.
Mr. Eneh was equally of the opinion that it was important that all relevant documents must be updated to increase chances of securing contracts even though he made it categorically clear that the contracts would be awarded on the basis of merit to guard against shoddy job execution in what he explained as the new Nigeria. He also emphasized that they would not entertain fake documents, pointing out that most contractors tendered fake documents but also stated that digital technology had made it very easy to detect such malpractices. He said contractors must insert relevant documents in their bidding papers as advertised. The institution’s Director of Procurement however assured all the contractors participating in the bid opening of a level playing field and that all would benefit from the exercise.
Mr. Okeze Chukwudi Idowu, the Budget Officer of the Federal Cooperative College Oji River in his remarks, said that the projects being bid for were domiciled in the institution. He explained that while some of the projects were normal capital projects for the college this year; others were zonal intervention projects by national assembly members to intervene in their immediate constituencies across the country. He said they have a right to domicile the projects anywhere in the country so long as it is a federal agency, adding that theirs is to supervise the execution of the projects across the country before payment is made.
He further disclosed that the federal government made provision for Monitoring and Evaluation to ensure that projects bid for were executed according to contractual obligations and agreements to avoid the wrath of anti-graft agencies. Okeze who equally functions as the Internal Auditor of the Federal Cooperative College Oji River Enugu state maintained that the contractors confirmed that the bids were signed, sealed and opened before their prying eyes at the college auditorium where the exercise was held, saying that the entire process was hundred percent transparent.
According to him, the bid opening was the first stage to the award of contracts. He said the second stage would be at the committee level where the Technical cum Evaluation Subcommittee, Financial Evaluation Subcommittee and other sub-committees would scrutinize documents to determine contractors to qualify for the next stage where they would be invited to do what he mentioned as their Financial Bid Evaluation.
The institution’s Internal Auditor and Quality Control Officer went further to say that many contractors bid for one or more projects but the truth of the matter remains that the most qualified contractors with track records of quality job execution would be shortlisted for the contracts and monitored closely to avoid wastage and execution of substandard projects. He said most importantly, COVID-19 precautionary measures of wearing nosemasks, observance of social distancing and some others were religiously adhered to during the bid opening.
Contractors who spoke with our correspondent at the bid opening, gave their endorsements, saying that the whole process was devoid of any semblance of nepotism, corruption and clandestine moves to favour some of the contractors to the detriment of others. One of the contractors, Mr. Ifeanyi Obiekwe, concurred that the bid opening was due process exemplified. Obiekwe, who represented three firms on the occasion, stated that the bids were opened in front of everybody and that the exercise was better than his previous experiences in other bid openings. Moreso,  he said he met the requirements as stipulated in the tender journal but even if his companies were not selected, he would accept the outcome in good faith because the bid opening was transparent and credible enough for anyone to accept the outcome and not remonstrate unnecessarily while commending the conduct of the officials who supervised the bid opening, saying that everything was done amidst strict observance of NCDC COVID-19 prevention protocols.

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