Several sources familiar with the bidding process and close to the corridors of power in Banjul have accused President Adama Barrow of interference in the bidding process of the Banjul Port Project Phase 4, alleging that the Gambian leader has manifested his interference by pushing the agenda of a Turkish-based Albayrak that ranks third in the bidding process to be given the multi-million dollar contract.
The Banjul Port Project is a twenty million and fifty-six thousand dollars ($20.56m) project meant to expand the fourth phase of the Port of The Gambia.
The financing will include a $13.71 million grant from the ADF, a $6.85 million grant from the entity’s Transition Support Facility window, and a $450,000 grant from the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program joint initiative, the African Development Bank and the Global Center on Adaptation.
The fourth expansion program of the Port of Banjul will also include an extension of the port’s pier by 345m, serving to accommodate up to three ships simultaneously; expand the container terminal area by 22,000m2 to facilitate increased container volumes; replacement and procuring a new-generation ferry that runs between the cities of Banjul and Barra; and widen the port’s Bund Road access roads by 3km to ease congestion.
Our investigations reveal that the project is poised to reduce sea freight costs and demurrage payments; the expansion program will improve information and communication processing systems to facilitate improved linkages between customs and the terminal operating system and significantly reduce the ship turnaround time, thereby cutting congestion and costly surcharges.
Additionally, the port expansion will feature investment from private investors that will be selected by the Gambian Government, while the project will also serve to empower women’s groups and support local content development and youth employment.
However, TAT Investigations accused the President of interference, thus affecting the independence of the bidding committee tasked to look into the bidding process carefully.
“President Barrow himself is doing everything to interfere with the selection of the bidders,’ a highly placed source within the Presidency told TAT.
Our source disclosed that nine companies, including Dubai Ports World, Bollore, Red Sea gateway terminal, Yilport, Albayrak, and Marsa Maroc, submitted bids to the tender committee.
The deadline for submission was November 21, 2022, when the Red Sea Gateway Terminal’s proposal on an annual fixed fee be paid to Gambia Ports Authority was adjudged the highest, followed by Yilport and Albayrak.
The source said despite a robust and transparent recommendation made to the Presidency by a qualified tender committee expressly set up to manage the Banjul Container Terminal tender with assistance from proficient global transaction advisors, “there has been an unethical engagement between the Gambian Presidency and one of the bidders, Albayrak.”
The source said Albayrak ranked low in its technical and financial bids ranking in the tender committee rankings, alleging that President Barrow is attempting to provide this low-ranked bidder through a back-door deal entry, much to the detriment of other bidders.
Albayrak is a Turkish-based company with a notorious reputation in the African ports sector management and development with a long and verifiable history of deploying political pressure and adopting unfair and corrupt means to gain concessions and contracts, to the disadvantage of the host country, its exchequer, and its people, our investigations reveal.
“Albayrak has used such tactics of manipulation and corrupt practice to buy out African Governments and their leaders before they realize their mistakes. The Turkish-based company has registered bad records in Mogadishu port in Somalia and, more recently, and closer in Port of Conakry, Guinea-Conakry, a source with knowledge of the deal told the Alkamba Times.
The tender committee has since completed its work and submitted its reports and recommendations to the President in mid-December last year. However, the Presidency is still sitting on the file with the view to interfering in the process.
Most bidders had already lost hope in the process, especially when officials of Albayrak were invited to the statehouse courtesy of President Barrow, another source said.
A maritime expert at the Gambia Maritime Administration, speaking to TAT on condition of anonymity, said:
“Given the numerous weaknesses at the Port of Banjul, which is severely affecting livelihoods and revenue for the Gambia, it is wise for the Presidency to allow the bidding process to follow its course transparently, thereby enabling the committee and relevant stakeholders to bring on board a company that is competent and can get the development required for Gambians to benefit from. But not! The Presidency deliberately invited Albayrak, entirely out of the tender process scope, to present at the State House on February 13, 2023, inviting select tender committee members with the meeting chaired by the President in attendance, the Chief of Staff.
One member of the tender committee believes the alleged action of the President will serve as a means to deprive the people of Gambia of their long-awaited opportunity of finally having a modern and efficiently operated port.
Efforts to speak to the President’s Director of the Press Office, Amie Bojang Sissoho, proved futile as she declined to respond to our inquiries.