By Akanimo Sampson
Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) is currently on the spot for daring to reveal that the cancer of corruption in Africa’s most populous country was still festering under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), whose ministry was indicted in a report by the bureau, is seriously challenging the BPP to produce evidence that contracts executed by the three ministries that were rolled into one under him in President Buhari’s first term – Power, works and Housing – were inflated.
‘’Until BPP publishes its rates which the then Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has demanded in writing, there can be no OBJECTIVE basis for determining whether any SAVINGS were indeed made if only BPP knows its own Rates for procurement. Once rates are published and design is known, quantities can be ascertained and costs can be determined.
‘’This is the field of Quantity Surveyors and Construction Economists, and the Minister of Works and Housing has not made any secret about his call for a revision of the Public Procurement Act to resolve this and other gaps in the Law’’, the obviously irked minister said..
In its 2018 annual report obtained by News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja, the country’s capital city, the BPP which unsettled Fashola claimed that it saved more than N26.86 billion that year alone, by revising down inflated contract sums by government agencies.
According to the report, the huge savings are from the review of contracts awarded to contractors by some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) before being given certificate of No Objection by the bureau.
Of the savings made, the highest amount of N22.22 billion was recorded from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing that was then under Fashola. The money, according to the BPP, was saved from an initial request of N877.40 billion.
Similarly, contracts under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources that is directly under the supervision of President Buhari, was reduced from N278.91 billion to N278.64 billion, resulting in savings of about N271 million.
Continuing, the BPP said it saved N1.37 billion on projects from the Ministry of Transportation which is under the watch of Chibuike Amaechi, a former Rivers State governor (2007-2015) from an initial request of N76.22 billion and also from Ministry of Water Resources, N521 million was saved out of N13.12 billion.
From the Ministry of Finance, the BPP said it saved N143.72 million from a request of N3.54 billion and about N33.65 million was saved from the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) initial request of N1.47 billion.
The report equally showed that savings of about N494.96 million was made from various military contracts from an initial request totaling N123.82 billion for the procurement of critical equipment.
While the agency revealed how contracts particularly awarded by the Amaechi and Fashola ministries, were inflated to the tune of about N27 billion, its report also showed that in 2018, 86 certificates of No Objection was given out by the bureau to MDAs for contracts initially totaling N1.421 trillion but was later reduced to N1.394 trillion.
In addition, savings of about N8.04 million was made from various contracts under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior, from an initial request of N9.23 billion just as the BPP also saved N104 million out of an initial request of N936.75 million by Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria for the procurement of broadcast equipment for 2019 general elections.
The report, however, showed that no savings was made from contracts under the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.
According to the report, the public procurement activities in most MDAs are shrouded in secrecy and not in line with international best practices ‘’The degree of the reported cases being prosecuted in the courts by the EFCC and the ICPC are clear testimony of the breaches in the MDAs. As observed in most cases, the procurement officers collude with the contractors and service providers to breach certain provisions of the BPP Act for their selfish reasons.
‘’These breaches range from faulty bid solicitation process, advance exposure of the bidding criteria to their preferred bidders and overlooking forged procurement statutory documents during technical and financial bid process.
‘’They also give out in-house prices of contracts to their preferred contractors and service providers which serve as an advantageous guide in their financial bidding, among other numerous breaches of the Act. Procurement officers, who are known to be colluding with the bidders to breach the Act, have not been reprimanded enough to deter them from their offences’’, the BPP report said.
Fashola’s Spokesmen, Hakeem Bello,said in a statement that the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing did not engage in any shady contract deals. According to him, ‘’being a department of the same government, ordinarily this should not warrant a reply; however the misleading nature of the reporting in the media and the statements credited to BPP compel a response for the purposes of clarification and enlightenment of the public.
‘’Any person who takes time to read the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, which created the BPP will understand that no contract can be awarded until BPP certifies that it has NO OBJECTION. Therefore there was no INFLATED contract because BPP clearly stated that it reduced the costs, and according to BPP she ‘… saved over N26 Billion…’
‘’And this is the heart of the matter, because BPP’s ‘savings’ can only be a SUBJECTIVE assessment based on rates quoted by contractors, reviewed by the Ministry, and sent to BPP for certification. Indeed, during the first term of this administration, the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing had commissioned the compilation of a service wide Rate of major items of procurement from the largest to the smallest for BPP to consider, adopt or amend and publish.
‘’This is the type of reform that the minister advocates and welcomes to improve uniformity, transparency, accountability and value for money in public procurement.’’