UNOPS accused of importing Mosquito nets against FG’s directives

THE United Nations Office for Project Services has been accused of recruiting foreign companies to import mosquito treated nets into Nigeria as against the directive of the federal government.

A petition sent to the National Assembly and copied the Ministers of Health and Justice, and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), one of the vendors, Rosies Textile Mills Ltd, accused UNOPS of ignoring the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the FG in order to recruit international manufacturers to import long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLIN).

In the memo signed on September 5, 2022 between the Federal Ministry of Health and UNOPS, $64,671,546.04 loan sourced from IsDB shall be used to procoure locally made LLIN for four states of Bayelsa, Edo, Enugu, Kogi and tbe Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Both parties in the MoU agreed that “the goods shall be procured through solicitation. In line with the spirit of the Presidential Executive Order 003, both UNOPS and NMEP (National Malaria Elimination Programme) agree that participation of locally manufactured products is critical for sustainability and to spur local job creation, and therefore international competitive bidding qill only bebused fpr products hat are not currently locally manufactured or of acceptable quality.

“LLINs shall be procured through open competitive bidding process involving both local manufacturers who have WHO and NAFDAC certification, and local suppliers who have manufacturers authorisation of WHOPES approved LLINS from local manufacturers.”

But things took a dramatic twist when despite certification by the Ministries of Trade and Investment and Health that there were local manufacturers and suppliers with manufacturers authorisation, UNOPS decided to cancel local competitive bidding it announced.

In the documents shared by the petitoner, UNOPS announced competitive bidding on Thursday, June 2, 2022 calling for “expression of interest for the supply of locally manufactured long-lasting insecticide mosquito nets” as directed by the Federal Government that the nets must be sourced locally.

The UN agent said to be qualified, it expected “the nets are expected to be produced and packaged in Nigeria and must have both NAFDAC and WHO certification to deliver the project within 12 months.”

Rosies Textile Mills Ltd is angry that despite recommendation by the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), the World Bank and Procurement Consultant IMPACT for the project recommending it, UNOPS cancelled the bidding.

The visiting team which went round the country in 2022 showed wrote in its reports to the health ministry, UNOPS and other staekholders foe the project that, “Rosies Textiles Mills, Aba, Abia State, having the required experience and capacity to manufacture and finish/package LLIN locally with the history of timely execution of the large quantities of LLIN in the past, and having been found to possess the capacity for manufacturing 165,000 nets per day with the potential to scale-up should be considered for local patronage pursuant to Executive Order (EO 003).”

The team further highlighted that, “Since Rosies Textile Mills Limited is the only identified local WHO approved and NAFDAC registered LLIN manufacturers, other local suppliers can get manufacturer’s authorisation from the company to enable them qualify for the participation in the exercise for the procurement of LLIN in Nigeria.”

But the company is accusing UNOPS of blackmailing it that it teamed up with two other local suppliers – Danyakubu Global Services Ltd – and Resizar International Co. Ltd it gave manufacturers authorisation to and so flouted the rules.

It responded to the query of collusion to UNOPS saying the terms of the tender which UNOPS published showed that “LLINs shall be procured through national open competitive bidding process involving both local manufacturers who have WHO and NAFDAC certification and local suppliers who have manufacturers authorisation of distributorship of WHOPES approved LLINs from local manufacturers.”

It denied flouting any guidelines to the bidding and said as the only qualified local manufacturer, it could not have colluded with any company.

He accused UNOPS of unfair treatment by unilaterally cancelling the bidding process without informing stakeholders especially the health ministry that gave it the contract to recruit manufacturers and or locls suppliers of the LLINs.

In the document seen, UNOPS announced on newspaper publications of February 6, 2023 that it has commenced fresh bidding process and directed interest vendors to go to its website to participate. But while initially it said it was for local manufacturers and suppliers this time, UNOPS said it was opened for international manufacturers and suppliers.

Rosies Textile Mills Ltd in the person accused UNOPS of over stepping its band and said it is at the receiving end because it wrote the FG about the delay and unilateral cancelation of the local bidding process.

It argued that in the cancellation, UNOPS did not say Rosies “was under investigation for collusion) he said in the petition rather, UNOPS wrote the health ministry that

“It took UNOPS eight months from the tender date and after our petition to write us of investigation of a tender which they claimed to have cancelled and had given us a letter stating reasons for cancelation and inviting us to participate in their international competitive bidding.”

The petitoner further wrote that, “UNOPS does not have power to unilaterally investigate Rosies or any other company without first informing the government and the World Bank after which they have to they have to look at the allegations and approve for UNOPS to carry out.

“In this case, UNOPS did not inform the government their employer instead the government asked them to reverse ethe cancellation and conclude the tender and award to the winner.

“UNOPS has said it was Rosies that won the tender.” It added that “in no time did the tender explicitly state that no one should issue manufacturers authorization to local manufacturers” as “it also included manufacturers authorisation form as part of its returnable form in the tender.”

Amid this, then Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire warned UNOPS in a letter dated May 24, 2023, drawing its attention to the MOU, ordering that “in compliance with Executive Order 003, your office is expected to honour the directive on local content, while by the provision of the MOU, the process for the procurement of LLIN, one of the products manufactured in Nigeria, should have been concluded by December 6, 2022.

While drawing UNOPS’ attention that it delayed the commencement of the tender till December 13, 2022 instead of concluding it by December 6, 2023 and its plan to conclude the exercise by March 21, 2023, through international competitive bidding, the minister said “are in breach of the MOU, and contravention of the Executive Order 003 and 005 of the government, which could trigger litigation involving all stakeholders, who bear the consequences of a delay in the procurement of these products.”

The minister explicitly reminded UNOPS that “the Executive Orders were issued by the President to protect Nigerian industry by ensuring patronage of WHO prequalified products manufactured in Nigeria. Where there is a sole domestic manufacturer of a product in Nigeria, our procurement laws allow effective market survey and price bench marking to achieve value for money, especially when all other conditions are met.

“On these grounds, the abrupt cancellation of the tender does not sit well with us.

“Disregard of WHO certified products locally manufactured in Nigeria violates the Executive Order.”

The development is causing serious upheaval among Textile Manufacturers Association of Nigeria who are aggrieved that any attempt to export the supplies of mosquito nets would further kill local manufacturers.