Two French companies are locked in a bruising battle for a lucrative Sh180 billion contract to upgrade the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.
The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) has picked one consortium, the Rift Valley Connect comprising Vinci Highways SAS, Meridian Infrastructure Africa Fund and Vinci Concessions SAS as the preferred bidder for the project sparking a protest by the rival firm.
In a letter to the Public Private Partnership Petition Committee, the State tribunal charged with arbitrating disputed tenders, the consortium made up of the African Infrastructure Investment Fund 3 Partnership, (Aiim), Egis, Mota-Engil and Orascom has disputed the award of the road tender to its rival consortium.
The firms want the tribunal to strike out the award alleging the award process was fraudulent.
It also claims that Kenha, as the contracting agency, did not provide reasons on why the consortium was not picked as the preferred bidder.
The dispute comes as French President Emmanuel Macron starts his two-day State visit to Kenya this week during which he is expected to engage President Uhuru Kenyatta on bilateral and trade deals.
“The contracting authority has conducted the PPP exercise in complete and willful disregard of well documented, fundamental procurement guidelines, principles, laws and regulations and processes as outlined in the RFP (Request for Proposal) and entrenched in the constitution of Kenya 2010,” says the consortium of AIIM, Egis, Mota-Engil and Orascom in a letter dated 8 March 2019.
“This is immutable evidence of the opaque, improper and prejudicial conduct of contracting authority and it impeaches the integrity, fairness and transparency of this process.”
The firm says the alleged lack of transparency has created confusion and anxiety in the process and wants it nullified.
“The petitioning consortium was required by the notification letter issued by the contracting authority to summarily and unconditionally accept being assessed as the reserve bidder within 21 days of the notification letter without being accorded any information on the process of evaluation leading up to this decision by the contracting authority and thus were seemingly being coerced into acceptance of bidding outcomes,” it argues.
The winning consortium will design, finance construct, operate, maintain and transfer the concessioned Nairobi-Nakuru-Mau Summit Highway.
KeNHA director-general Peter Mundinia had last month told the Business Daily that the agency had finalised evaluations of the bids.
“Four firms were shortlisted and only two submitted their bids,” he had said.
“We will pick one firm as the preferred bidder and another as a reserve bidder,” said Mr Mundinia, explaining the measure is aimed at offering contingency for the project in case one pulls out.
The contract has a local participation requirement.
The successful concessionaire will build, maintain, manage and operate the highway and recover their money from motorists in the form of user fees.