Business in Cameroon | Selected as the provisional successful bidder for the construction of the Ntui-Mankim road section (96.7 km), the Chinese company Sinohydro is currently the subject of disagreements between members of the Arbitration Commission of the Ministry of Public Contracts (Minmap). The meetings were convened by the Minister of Public Contracts Ibrahim TALBA MALLA to rule as a last resort on two unfavorable opinions (of the Central Road Procurement Control Commission-CCCM-TR) contested by the Ministry of Public Works (MINTP).
According to our sources, on January 8, 2021, the Minister of Public Contracts had to suspend the works of the Arbitration Commission because of fierce arguments between members f the said commission. While some of the members agreed with the unfavorable opinion of the CCCM-TR, others were questioning such decision to eliminate the Chinese company from the process.
To disqualify the Chinese company, the CCCM-TR explained that its financial offer was higher than the budget set for lot 2B “Ndjolè-Mankim”. Indeed, it explained, while the provisional all taxes included budget set by the tender documents is XAF24.26 billion, Sinohydro made an all-taxes-included financial offer of XAF28.29 billion, which is more than XAF4.5 billion higher than the provisional budget.
It added that on lot 2A “Ntui-Ndjolè”, the environmentalist presented by Sinohydro is not compliant with the provisions of the tender documents. The said environmentalist has never been involved in a project of this scale and does not have the experience required by the tender document, which is an eliminatory criterion according to the CCCM-TR.
“If Cameroon selects Sinohydro despite all the shortcomings observed, the main financial backer [the African Development Bank namely] could withdraw from the project and the other companies that submitted their offers could sue Cameroon,” a member of the commission commented.
The Minister of Public Works’ disagreement
But the Minister of Public Works, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, does not agree with such decision. Before the case was brought to the Arbitration Commission of the Ministry of Public Contracts, he previously referred the matter to the CCCM-TR.
Indeed, on December 11, 2020, he sent a letter to the CCCM-TR concerning the resumption of works on the Ntui-Mankim section.
In the letter, he acknowledged receipt of the letter by which the CCCM-TR was notifying him of its unfavorable opinion concerning the proposal to award the contract to THE Chinese company. He then explained that the reasons stated by the CCCM-TR were not specific enough and though they were supposed to be based on a report concluded on November 11, 2020, by CCCM-TR expert Yos Guillaume, it is far from the conclusion made by the said expert.
“The CCCM-TR expert’s report leads to the same proposal as the one transmitted to you. So, there is clearly a contradiction between the conclusions of your Commission and the expert’s report […] in view of the foregoing and in application of the provisions of Article 179 of the Market Code. I am sending you the bid analysis report for a new diligent examination,” he wrote.
Because of the Minister of Public Works and the CCCM-TR’s divergent conclusions, the Arbitration Commission was asked to rule. And under Article 19 of Cameroon’s Public Procurement Code, after disagreements, only the Minister of Public Procurement can award the contract through mechanisms that preserve fairness and transparency.
Pending the outcome of this case, it should be recalled that Sinohydro was selected as the provisional winner of the contract to build the road section connecting the Central region to the North in 2016. As the road section is not yet built, the two regions, which are large agriculture and animal farming regions, are still isolated.