Court compels PHCN to disclose World Bank sponsored contracts

*PHCN complies

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

05 April 2013, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has disclosed documents containing details of World Bank supported contracts for the supply and installation of High Voltage Distribution systems in Abuja, Lagos and Ibadan in compliance with last month’s order of an Abuja Federal High Court.

By a letter dated April 2, 2013, signed by Engr. A.J. Ciroma, its General Manager, Project Monitoring Unit (PMU), the PHCN forwarded a copy of the “Bid Evaluation Report containing all annexes” and a copy of the signed contract document to the Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition, which had made a request for them under the Freedom of Information Act and instituted the suit following PHCN’s earlier refusal to disclose them.

PHCN explained in the covering letter that “the contact sum, the conditions of contract, payment terms and number of required sectionalizers in each of the HVDS Networks are all contained in the signed contract document.”

It also requested the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), which instituted the suit on behalf of the Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition, to forward its bank account details to PHCN to enable the company pay the N20,000 costs awarded against PHCN by the court.

In the suit instituted on its behalf by the PPDC on September 21, 2012, the coalition sought an order to compel PHCN and the Attorney General of the Federation to provide it with procurement information relating to Bid No. NGP-D2 for the supply of 300 units of 11 KV, 500A On-Load Sectionalizers for installation at the High Voltage Distribution System (HVDS) networks at Karu in Abuja; at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Lagos; in two other locations in Lagos – Ogba and Agege; as well as Challenge in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Besides the PPDC, which is the National Convener of the Coalition, other members include the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), the Centre for Organizational and Professional Ethics (COPE-AFRICA) and the Initiative for Environmental and Health Society (IFEHS).

PHCN had initially refused to provide any of the records and documents requested by the coalition under the Freedom of Information Act but later released some of them after Justice A.F.A. Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja granted the coalition leave to institute the suit. The PHCN however continued to withhold some of the other information sought by the Coalition, including the bid evaluation report for the contract process and the contract award document.

The PHCN claimed then that it could not disclose the outstanding documents as the disclosure would affect third party rights and negotiations in the contract award process.

However, in his judgment, Justice Ademola dismissed PHCN’s arguments, ruling that “since negotiations have been concluded and the contract awarded, the disclosure of the information sought cannot by any stretch of the imagination reasonably be expected to interfere with any contractual or other negotiations of the contractor” and issued an order for the release of contract documents sought by the coalition.

The Coalition’s administrator, Ms Seember Nyager, commended PHCN for its speedy compliance with the court’s order as soon as it was served with a copy of the order.

Ms Nyager said: “We were naturally disappointed with PHCN’s initial refusal to disclose the information we requested which resulted in avoidable litigation and caused unnecessary delays in our project to monitor the award and execution of the contract. We are however encouraged by PHCN’s unreserved compliance with the court’s order, indicating a commitment to the rule of law.”

The Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition is a division of the West African Contract Monitoring Coalition which is being regionally coordinated by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Commission (GACC).

With support from the World Bank Institutional Development Fund, the project is implementing a project titled Multi-stakeholder Engagement for Effective Public Procurement Process in Nigeria.

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