The no nonsense intervention of the indefatigable Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security, Dr. Sam Sesay, has saved Sierra Leone of a whopping $400,000 (Four Hundred Thousand United States Dollars), if corrupt officials at the Procurement Unit of the Ministry have had there way.
At an emergency meeting of senior ministry officials summoned yesterday morning by Dr. Sam Sesay at his Youyi Building office, he ordered the unquestionable suspension of an extravagant contract suspiciously awarded late last month to a Lebanese contractor whose shady deals with certain officials at the Procurement Unit seem to have hit a dead rock.
The contract in question was for the supply of 10,400 (50kg) bags of assorted fertilizer, meant to boost food production across the country. The contract was duly bided, with ten bidders manifesting interest. The bids were opened before the bidders or their representatives on April 22, 2009 at the conference hall of the ministry.
Since then however, nothing was heard about the contract until recently when rumours started doing the rounds that it has been awarded to the Lebanese owned DAVIDA Enterprise.
Rumours of the said contract having been awarded without the respective bidders being notified started filtering in when documents relating to the singing of an Advance Payment Bond were spotted at the nearly opened Sky Bank.
In a telephone discussion with Mohamed Jalloh, the Assistant Secretary at the Procurement Unit, he affirmed that the contract has been awarded, but fell short of disclosing the name of the company that won it.
Accordingly, the Ministerís intervention came when it became apparent to him that the contract has been awarded to the wrong contractor.
Minister Sesay was particularly stunned at the fact that the said contract was awarded to a bidder whose price is well over $400,000 (Four Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) higher than three other bidders who by all indications have the capacity to deliver the goods in record time, perhaps far more than the one with the higher amount.
The price of DAVIDA Enterprise for the supply of the consignment stands at Le 1,950,150,000 (one billion, nine hundred and fifty million, one hundred and fifty thousand leones) with a delivery period of 6-8 weeks and a security bond of $20,000 (twenty thousand dollars), as compared to a company like Holland Farming with a bid price of Le 1,581,350,000 (one billion, five hundred and eighty one million leones, three hundred and fifty thousand leones), with a security bond of Le 60,000,000 (sixty million leones) and delivery period of 6-7 weeks.
Apart from Holland Farming, companies like Cardinal with a bid price of $399,550 and MEDZICK International with a bid price of Le 1,619,600,000, both with the stipulated security bond and delivery period, would have been easily considered for the awarding of the contract.
Many observers have questioned the logic employed to allocate the lofty contract to a Lebanese who reports say has nothing absolutely to lose and therefore stands ready to bribe his way through locked doors.
The suspension of the contract by Minister Sam Sesay has been dubbed by many as a patriotic and non compromising move aimed not only at saving the country from losing huge amounts of money to a rogue contractor, but also to ensure that the right thing is done with regards the awarding of the contract.
Accusing fingers have been pointed at Assistant Secretary Mohamed Jalloh, who is said to be playing the role of the Mr. Schemer at the Procurement Unit. He is alleged to be an intimate friend of the Lebanese owner of DAVIDA Enterprises, who reports say frequents the ministry in desperate search for contracts.
This same Lebanese in question is said to be operating five different companies registered under different names, and is believed to be only interested in making quick money at the expense of the nation in connivance with some unscrupulous and unpatriotic Sierra Leoneans.
The last contract for the supply of 3,000 (three thousand bags) of fertilizer worth millions of leones was awarded to a company named OKAR Agency, owned by the same Lebanese. The said contract is also reported to have been awarded under suspicious circumstances, and it was because they went away with it that they had the audacity to award the current contract to the same Lebanese, but this time in the name of DAVIDA Enterprise. If the minister hadnít intervened, the pending contract again would have been awarded to the same Lebanese, who according to reports, is ready and willing to let away half of his profit as long as he gets the contract, thereby depriving Sierra Leonean bidders with better capacity and determination to put their beloved country on the map.
Meanwhile, Minister Sam Sesay has told his technical officials at the ministry to put the country first in all they do, and desist from acts that will hamper the efficiency of the ministry and the overall economic progress of the country.
The Minister is totally in favour of the idea to empower local contractors, rather than giving away everything to Lebanese nationals in particular, whose real interest is all the way in Lebanon and not in poor and unenviable Sierra Leone. Kudos Dr. Sam Sesay!!!!!!!!!
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.