Efacec sees €21M winning tender for biogas plant in Norway cancelled

  • Lusa
  • 12 February 2021

Efacec confirmed that a 21 million euro tender it had won in Norway for the construction of a biogas plant had been cancelled, but said it "does not understand" the decision.

Efacec saw the cancellation of a 21 million euro tender it had won in Norway for the construction of a biogas plant, a decision that the Portuguese company “does not understand”, according to a response sent to Lusa on Friday.

“Efacec confirms that it received communication informing of the cancellation, last February 2, just over a month after it was notified as the winner of the tender,” a company response sent to Lusa read.

On December 23, Lusa reported that Norwegian company Cambi, Efacec’s competitor in the 20.9 million-euro tender, contested it due to previous shareholder links to businesswoman Isabel dos Santos.

However, the Portuguese company stressed today that “it is also strange that the complaint of Efacec’s competitor, which gave rise to this situation, was dismissed by the Norwegian public procurement regulator – KOFA – and even more so because the NRA [the Norwegian state-owned company in question] publicly defended the choice of Efacec.”

“The allegations presented by Cambi are vehemently refuted by Efacec, which does not understand the cancellation of the tender, nor the fact that the decision was reversed just over a month after it was awarded.”

Efacec, currently majority state-owned, says it “complied with all the requirements requested at the tender stage by NRA and its independent consultants, and was selected based on its experience and competitiveness.”

Efacec also states that it is “analysing all legal options to appeal this decision,” adding that it will defend its reputation “to the last consequences, out of respect for all its employees, partners, customers, suppliers and shareholders.”

According to statements by Nedre Romerike Avløpsselskap (NRA) managing director Thomes Trømborg to Norwegian newspaper E24, Efacec was disqualified because it no longer met the “financial strength” requirements.

“After major awards, a follow-up is always done in the form of quality assurance, where up-to-date information about the supplier is requested and evaluated,” the official told E24.

Despite Cambi’s initial appeal, the NRA eventually cancelled the tender for price reasons, according to the Norwegian publication.

In December, the NRA announced that it intended to “agree with Portugal’s Efacec to build a future-oriented biogas plant” located in the municipality of Lillestrøm, about 20 kilometres from the capital Oslo.

According to a report published at the time in E24, Efacec’s offer was 140 and 162 million Norwegian kroner (around 13.3 and 15.4 million euros, respectively) lower than that of competitors, including Cambi.

According to documentation to which Lusa had access, Efacec’s competitor filed complaints with NRA and an appeal with the Norwegian Board of Public Procurement Appeals (KOFA), due to the fact that Efacec’s previous majority shareholder was businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, and also due to the price.

“Considering the huge international coverage of the corruption scandal surrounding Isabel dos Santos and her former and now contested stake of over 70% in Efacec, we are very surprised that Efacec participated in the tender and was given as the winner,” Cambi wrote in a letter to NRA.

In the formal complaint before the Public Procurement Appeals Board (KOFA), the company that lost the tender argues that “Efacec should never have been pre-qualified for the tender” due to Isabel dos Santos’ shareholder position and the fact that Mário Leite da Silva, considered the businesswoman’s ‘right-hand man’ and whose name is also involved in the ‘Luanda Leaks’, was the chairman of the company’s board of directors.

In response to Cambi, lawyer Marianne Dragsten, who represents the contractor of the NRA project, said that “there is no sufficient basis to trigger the right to reject Efacec as a result of allegations of corruption against Isabel dos Santos.

“Based on the information available about the corruption allegations against Isabel dos Santos, the client understands that there is an ongoing investigation,” the NRA referred then, stressing that “Isabel dos Santos has not been convicted.”

“In its application for pre-qualification, Efacec did not provide information about the corruption allegations against Isabel dos Santos. However, this gives no basis to reject Efacec” due to the lack of judgment on the matters, according to the NRA in December.