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The Pre-qualification Module enlightenment held in the Transcorp Hilton Abuja on August 26, 2009 marked the end of the series of events organized by NipeX for it’s stakeholders on the Prequalification Module which commenced on May 12, 2009. The Stakeholders engaged included the Suppliers, Operators and NNPC Approvers (NAPIMS and NCD).

The enlightenment campaign was aimed at sensitizing stakeholders on their roles in the NipeX pre-qualification process as well as obtaining feedback for systems improvement. The Pre-qualification Module is one of the major NipeX offerings aimed at ensuring substantial reduction in the contracting cycle (from 18-24 months to 4 months).

NipeX is made up of both the E-market and JQS systems. The e-market system manages the contract approval process while the JQS system manages the pre-qualification, performance monitoring and NCD monitoring processes. The pre-qualification module when fully deployed in NipeX will offer a comprehensive database for Operators to source pre-qualified Suppliers for available contract opportunities. It will also guarantee efficiency in the contracting process and substantial cost reduction for all stakeholders.

Currently, the Pre-qualification exercise is done manually on a contract by contract basis and spanning a period of 3-9 months. A team comprising Operators, NAPIMS and NCD determine the evaluation criteria and conduct the pre-qualification of prospective bidders for each contract opportunity. Thereafter a shortlist of qualified bidders is obtained for the contract opportunity.

One of the major draw-backs of the manual pre-qualification process is the absence of standardized evaluation template which gives rise to subjectivity. A Supplier pre-qualified for a particular product/service by an Operator may not be pre-qualified by another Operator. This is due to the fact that the evaluation criteria approved for an Operator may differ from the approval given to another Operator even for the same product/ service. Furthermore, there is huge cost implication for Suppliers who are required to provide several copies of the same documentation for every of contract opportunity. The cost incurred for this process is better imagined than experienced.

The NipeX prequalification process on the other hand is a one time exercise. The Supplier having obtained the application form and made the necessary payment is required to fill and submit the on-line questionnaire.

The questionnaire is quality checked for correctness and if found okay the Supplier is certified as having attained the “Published Status”. On attaining the ‘Published Status’, the Supplier is then scheduled for the On-site Audit by the team of Assessors comprising Operators, NAPIMS, NCD and NipeX Auditors.

The Audit is conducted using a standardized assessment template which eliminates the subjectivity in the current manual pre-qualification process. Once the Suppliers meet the Audit requirements, the audit is closed out and Suppliers Audit Report is uploaded onto the database. Thereafter the Supplier categorization based on set parameters is done. The Supplier information is then made available to the Operators who obtain the list of qualified suppliers for every contract opportunity.

NipeX explained that due to the challenges experienced with the Audit exercise (as only 229 companies have so far been audited) the NipeX Steering Committee directed that a temporary Waiver Status be granted to Companies who have

  1. attained “Published Status” and
  2. been prequalified  by NAPIMS/NCD/ Operators in the last 2 years. The Waiver would be valid for one (1) year with a one year extension. Suppliers who qualify for this Waiver would beuploaded into the database and sourced for contract opportunities as applicable. The enlightenment workshop was well received by stakeholders – Suppliers, Operators and Approvers alike. They expressed their enthusiasm towards the full deployment of NipeX prequalification module as it would be immensely beneficial to the entrenchment efficiency in the contracting process.

However concerns about the speed of the Audit exercise was reiterated as NipeX reported that out of the 1,573 companies who have attained the “Published Status” only 229 have been audited. NipeX assured stakeholders that concerted efforts are being made to fast track the exercise with the expectation that most of the outstanding companies would be audited in the next few months.

The Pre-qualification module is expected to be fully deployed by end of September 2009 by which time stakeholders would begin reaping the full benefits of the NipeX system