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INVESTIGATIONSINVESTIGATION: How MDAs violate procurement rules in contract awards

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An investigation has uncovered how Nigerian government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have continuously violated procurement rules in awarding contracts, actions that have helped undermine development and breed corruption.

And this has continued to be the practice despite the existence of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 that criminalize the award of contracts in violation of procurement rules.

For instance, section 58 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 makes it an offence with offenders liable to five or 10 years imprisonment for awarding contracts without due process and in line with the law. While section 38 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 makes it an offence for contracts that are not awarded in compliance with procurement rules.

Although, there exist laws that regulate contract awards in Nigeria to ensure there is no room for corruption, transparency and accountability upheld in the entire process, investigations by MAWA Foundation have uncovered how MDAs are engaged in an apparent abuse of the laws and are awarding contracts in total disregard and breach of the law.

N14.064 Million Angwan Gede Community Solar Street Light

Angwan Gede Community in Kuje, where N14.064m Solar Street Light contract was awarded by Agric ministry but not traceable to any location
Angwan Gede Community in Kuje, where N14.064m Solar Street Light contract was awarded by Agric ministry but not traceable to any location

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture And Rural Development, in total violation of the Public Procurement Act and Fiscal Responsibility Act, awarded a contract for the installation of 15 units of Solar Street Lights at Angwan Gede Community in Kuje Area Council of Abuja, the Nigeria capital city.

The contract that was awarded to Mertai Multi-Service Limited, a company registered on April 6, 2009, and has its operation at Plot 439 Lobito Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja, was carried out without procurement process followed.

In efforts to ascertain adherence to the procurement process in the award of the contract by the Agric Ministry, using the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) a request was made to the ministry to show a tender bid, reports, and evidence that the procurement process was followed in award of the contract.

The Agric Ministry in disobedience to the law has since refused to respond to the request.

Although the Agric Ministry did not answer the FOI request, a senior official in the procurement department who spoke but did not want his name mentioned, said the ministry was notorious for the abuse of procurement processes and violation of procurement laws. He, however, alleged that virtually all companies that got contracts with the Agric Ministry bribed their way through.

“Why are you bothered about procurement procedures in Agric Ministry, I can tell you for free, virtually all the companies that got a contract to execute projects under the ministry bribed their ways through”, the official said.

“Go and speak to the contractors, if they are sincere, they will tell you how much they paid to secure contract award, these things are not free, money must exchange hands,” the official added.

When MAWA Foundation visited Plot 439 Lobito Crescent, Wuse II, an address Mertai Multi-Service Limited claims to be operating from, no such company was found. Mr. Ephraim Ogbonia, who spoke at the premises, said he was not aware of such a company having an office in the area.

Worse still, a visit to Angwan Gede Community in Kuje Area Council of Abuja, showed that despite the money being paid to the contractor, nothing was done and the project was not executed.

Community residents who spoke on the matter during the visit and conducted our officials around, said the only solar street lights in the area that are not more than four, were installed eight years ago at the Baobab Tree area and have since stopped working a long time ago.

When asked if they were consulted regarding the project award, the residents all answered in affirmation that nothing of that whatsoever

Copy of FOI request sent to the ministry which went unanswered

Mr. Amza, a community resident and youth leader said there was no project of such carried out at the community, and wondered why there would be consultation when there is no such plan to install solar street lights in the community.

“You do not need to ask if there was any consultation with the community regarding the contract award and the selection of the contractor, in the first instance, there is no such project in the community, so of what use is the consultation”, Amza said.

N139.341 million Bwari Youth Centre Street Light

The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs headed by Princess Adejoke Orelope Adefulire in what appears a violation of the Public Procurement Act and Fiscal Responsibility Act, was caught in the act of awarding a contract in violation of extant laws regulating procurement processes in Nigeria.

N139.341m Bwari Youth Centre Street Light Project

Investigations uncovered how the OSSAP-SDGs awarded the installation of 200 units of Solar Street Lights at Youth Centre, in Bwari Area Council of Abuja, the Nigerian capital city to E-Concept Technologies Limited at the sum of N139,341,194.85 in disregard to the Public Procurement Act.

Having gotten a tip that the OSSAP-SDGs may have awarded the contract in disregard to the procurement rules, an FOI request was sent to the office to provide the following information:

(1) The report of procurement/tender bid leading to the selection of E-Concept Technologies Limited in a contract award for the installation of 200 units of Solar Street Light (Type B) at Bwari Youth Centre, FCT Abuja.

(2) Bank Statement of payments made to the E-Concept Technologies Limited regarding the project execution.

OSSAP-SDGs refused to respond to the request, but the contractor made efforts towards getting MAWA Foundation to drop the report.

Copy of FOI request sent to the office of the Senior Special Adviser to the President on SDGs

Mr. MM Bagana, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of E-Concept Technologies Limited, speaking to MAWA Foundation, admitted that due process was not followed by the OSSAP-SDGs before his company was awarded the contract.

A visit to the project site at Bwari, showed about 159 Solar Street Light Poles at the Youth Centre, while community residents said all of them are functional.

Mr. Rufai, a resident of the community who lives opposite the Youth Centre, said that the project was completed about five months ago.

Asked if the community residents were consulted regarding the contract award and selection of the contractor, Mr. Fufai said that was not done.

Another resident Mr. Musa Ibrahim, who said he was very close to the traditional ruler and has a good knowledge of what goes on in the community, said that no consultation regarding the project was done with the residents.

Mr. Issac Gabriel, one of the youth leaders who spoke to MAWA officials, argued that there was no point asking the community residents if they were consulted by the OSSAP-SDGs regarding the project, pointing out that virtually all communities in Nigeria including Abuja were not always consulted regarding contract award and project execution.

“I am surprised to see you ask community residents if they were consulted regarding the contract award and selection of a contractor, if you know the country very well, communities are not usually consulted, Bwari is not an exception, you know the practice, asking community members such question simply means looking for what does not exist,” Gabriel said.

Another community resident, Mr. Jonathan Danlami, who said he is one of the workers that undertook labourer jobs during the solar street light installation, said that they dug each of the holes for N300 an amount that shows the contractor may have made a huge gain from the deal.

N38.909 million road to Peace Mall, Sabon Lugbe Road

The Federal Ministry of Environment appears to have awarded a contract for a road construction and erosion control at Nut-Peace Mall Road in Sabon Lugbe Estate Phase II in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) to Megabond Engineering Limited at the sum of N38,909,059.40 in non-compliance to the Public Procurement Act and Fiscal Responsibility Act.

To confirm the Ministry of Environment’s compliance with the procurement rules in the award of the contract, MAWA Foundation sent an FOI request to the ministry asking to be provided with evidence of procurement rule compliance. A request the ministry failed to respond to.

N39m Peace Mall Sabon Lugbe Road Project

A senior official in the ministry who did not want to be quoted revealed that there was no contractor that got contract(s) with the ministry that did not bribe his or her way through. “In Nigeria, you do not get a contract based on merit, some bribes must take place, and that has continued to be the practice”, the official added.

During a visit to the project site, community residents said they were not consulted for the project and were not involved in the selections of contractor.

Mr. Somtochukwu, a community resident said that his father is the chairman of the landlord association in the area, and, that at no time was there any consultation regarding the contract. He disclosed that they woke up one morning and saw equipment mobilized to the site and work commenced.

“In communities, do government consult residents before implementing projects, you will just see equipment and a signpost, why are you asking us as if Lugbe is different, don’t you know what is obtainable in Nigeria”, Somtochukwu asked.

A senior staff of Abedini Hotel, which is located in the area, while speaking on the matter, said no consultation was carried out regarding the contract. He, however, narrated how the hotel was forced to pay money for the road to be extended to the area.

“I am not aware of any consultation made regarding this road, we only saw signpost and construction equipment,” the Abedini Hotel official added.

N6.254 million for furnishing, Equipment at Demonstration School Gwagwalada

A contract for the provision of instructional materials, textbooks, furnishing and equipment at the Demonstration Primary School, Gwagwalada in Abuja appears to have been carried out without adherence to the procurement rules.

The contract awarded by Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) to Divik’s Global Services Limited at the sum of N6,254,325.00, may have been concluded with disregard to the Public Procurement Act.

UBEC has since refused to respond to the FOI request asking her to provide evidence that shows the contract was awarded in compliance with the procurement rules.

And this is even as MAWA had spoken to an official of the Commission who promised to ensure a response would be made to the effect. However, as at the time of filing this report there was no response from UBEC.

During a visit to Demonstration Primary School, which had been renamed Pilot Science School, Mr. Ibrahim Yusuf Ph.D., the school headmaster, confirmed that the contract was executed and showed us books, chairs and computers supplied by the UBEC.

Some of the N6m furnitures, equipment at Demonstration School, Gwagwalada

He, however, said that the school management was not consulted regarding the contract award and contractor selection, pointing out that they only received the items from the contractor who delivered them.

Worse still, a senior official from the UBEC who spoke via a telephone conversation, said the commission does not adhere to procurement rules in contracts awards, pointing out that it had loyal contractors that were always selected for contracts execution.

He accused the Commission‘s management of corruption in contract racketeering.

“Stop wasting your time asking UBEC to respond to FOI requests regarding contract awards, you will not get answers, they do not have such records, contracts are awarded to friends, and contractors considered loyal that can bring returns, the official said.

Considering the clear cases of Public Procurement Act and Fiscal Responsibility abuse by the MDAs, there is an urgent need for coordinated advocacies by the Civil Society Organization (CSOs) and the media that will force the government to pay adequate attention to how government officials breach procurement laws in contract awards.

In the advocacies, government officials and companies that have benefitted from the abuse and breach of procurement laws must be put to trial and be convicted if found guilty, in that way, there will be adherence to accountability and transparency in the ways contracts are awarded in the country and there will be value for money.

This investigation was undertaken by Media Advocacy West Africa Foundation (MAWA Foundation) with support from Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC)

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