Somalia: Puntland President’s influence over the tender process of EU funded road project [Report]
GAROWE, Puntland- In the coming days a selected bidder is expected to be announced to implement the “Sustainable Road Maintenance Project” for the highway connecting Garowe and Galkayo, financed by the European Union (EU) and Germany, Garowe Online reports.
The project was launched last year by Puntland President Abdiwali Mohamed Ali “Gaas” and was announced during the ceremony a total budget of € 21 Million to rehabilitate the entire Galkayo-Garowe corridor, but later it was revealed that about $ 8 Million will be used to rehabilitate the road.
The current phase of the project intends to reconstruct damaged sections and about 96 culverts along 80 km between Jalam and Harfo villages, and will be co-supervised by a Germany based organization, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Puntland Highway Authority (PHA) and the Ministry of Public Works.
In a recent interview with GO, GIZ official, Christoph Schmidt, declined to disclose details on the planned budget for the entire Galkayo-Garowe corridor, instead he noted that GIZ have financial budget for the current phase to rehabilitate 80 km of the road.
However, during the bidding process, local companies were reported to have expressed interest to compete for the tender. Allegation of corruption surfaced along the process attributed to irregularities and misconduct from officials of PHA and Puntland Tender Committee aiming to award associated companies.
Consequently, GIZ launched probe into the allegation of tender fraud and announced it hired international auditors to review and re-evaluate again the entire bidding process, which resulted to delay the announcement of the winning bidder than its scheduled time in last November.
According to inside sources, companies that successfully managed to advance to the “Short List” stage are; AL Bashit, IL Gar and Is-Xilqan companies.
-President influence in the process’
In the beginning of 2016, President Ali appointed Abdirazaq Ahmed Adan aka “Eelaay” to be the “focal point” for the Sustainable Road Maintenance Project and to work closely with the implementing agencies.
Eelaay is a Canadian-Somali, who came back to the country when Ali was elected as President in January 2014. He also shares clan links with President Ali.
However, close sources tell GO, the creation of the post was aimed to facilitate direct influence for the office of the President over the project in term of the financial and technical aspects of the project.
This led to create numerous obstacles to the project, as Eelaay’s role has overlapped with the mandate of both Ministry of Labor Works and PHA.
-Delays in the Project’
In December 2015, GIZ announced it will kick off the project early this year but worsening security situation in Puntland and overlaps in responsibilities between government agencies resulted to postpone the project.
Along the process, Eelasy was reported to make a covert deal with a construction company that progressed to the short listing stage called “Is-Xilqan”. The company is considered to have a lower capacity to implement such projects compared to its rival companies.
Eelay was promised to receive colossal payment if he assisted Is-Xilqan company to triumph over the contract, according to sources.
The covert agreement enabled the company to receive confidential information including the complete cost of the project, which enabled the company to place lesser budget than other companies in the bidding process.
Close to $ 8 Million is estimated to be the total cost of the project, and sources indicated that Is-Xilqan placed $ 6 Million to complete the project including the rehabilitation of 96 small culverts.
Tender corruption is a common practice in the least development countries, such as Somalia, where local companies negotiate with government officials on “Kickbacks” deals to acquire confidential information of infrastructure projects in return for bribery payment.
Sources tell GO, that Eelaay informed the agencies responsible for overseeing the tender process including PHA, GIZ and Ministry of Public Works to select Is-Xilqan company since it placed lesser budget to complete the project.
According to road experts, the cost set by Is-Xilqan company is below than the budget used to build roads inside cities in Puntland region under JPLG/ILO Projects. The road inside the cities classified as “Low Volume” roads and reported to cost $100,000 to $120,000 for every 1 km of the road built.
Based on the information obtained from Is-Xilqan’s bidding documents, it intends to place $ 70,000 work costs for every 1 km of the road, this will put potential risk to the sustainability of the project in the near future.
Galkayo-Garowe highway is frequently used by heavy trucks and cargo vehicles that operates between northern and southern regions of Somalia and is classified to be “High Volume” road.
Is-Xilqan company is owned by businessman, who he shares close clan relation with President Ali, and was reported that recent allegation of corruption, published by local media exposing companies involved in tender malpractice had led the President to request from GIZ and Tender Committee to exclude those companies from the process, and select Is-Xilqan to win over the contract.
-Eelay's role in other projects in Puntland’
Eelay's role is not only confined to the rehabilitation project of Galkayo-Garowe corridor, but he is involved in other upcoming projects in Puntland, including $ 15 Million project that is funded by African Development Bank and managed by IGAD.
He is also involved in the roads project that will be implemented in Garowe city. A total of 29 km length of roads including culverts will be constructed in Garowe, funded by World Bank.
The report sheds light on the influence of the office of the President over various agencies in Puntland government that failed to execute its duties due to overlaps of mandate between the agencies and official connected to the President’s office.
Following his election, President Ali created new posts and tapped members from Puntland Diaspora and local community, who they share clan links or association for those posts attached to his office.
These officials are accused of corruption and hindering various projects in Puntland region, as they mostly involved in covert negotiation with implementing agencies to obtain bribery payment from the ongoing projects in the region.