A total of 18 international companies are prequalified to submit technical and commercial bids by 17 February.

The successful bidder will formulate and oversee the multi-billion-dollar programme, which is aimed at rehabilitating environmental damage caused by the 1990-91 Iraqi occupation.

Prequalification for the tender was launched in December 2006, but has been consistently delayed. A key stumbling block was a restriction that prevented the consultant from being able to bid for contracting work as well, with several firms trying to argue for the rule to be changed (MEED 3:8:07).

The clean-up programme is being funded by the UN Compensation Commission, which has collected reparations from Baghdad over the past decade for the damage it caused in Kuwait.

The 10-year-plus programme will be supervised by the Public Authority for Assessment of Compensation for Damages Resulting from Iraqi Aggression.

The work itself will involve dozens of major contracts covering groundwater and terrestrial schemes, remediation of contaminated soils and open pits, rehabilitation of eco-systems and public health initiatives. The first field contract tenders are due to be issued by the end of next year.