By Ahuraka Isah, Solomon Ayado and Kauthar Anumba-Khaleel, Abuja
The Senate announced yesterday that it was embarking on a comprehensive investigation of the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) over what it described as monumental corruption.
It alleged that the BPP has deeply conspired with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government to siphon public funds.
According to the Red Chamber, the alleged connivance of the BPP with all the agencies and private contractors has led to inflation of contracts to the detriment of the federal government.
Deputy Senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary directed the Senate Committee on Public Procurement to investigate the allegation and report back to the Senate in five weeks.
Insisting that the committee should get to the root of the alleged corruption, he said, “Our committee will do justice to the issue. In our contributions, it is clear that we have not taken positions. So, our committee will do justice to the issue and dig deep to find out the truth about what has been said”.
The Senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, had in a motion he moved, alleged that the BPP has reneged in its duty and as such, does not perform or conduct mandatory post procurement audit, just as it corruptly issues certificates of no objection.
“Procurement is responsible for over 70 per cent of corruption in this country. To get the fight against corruption right, we must also get our procurement very correct’’, Melaye said.
He noted that there was urgent need to investigate allegations of failure to perform or conduct mandatory post procurement audit and corrupt issuance of certificate of no objection against the BPP.
His words: “Monumental corruption is going on in the BPP. That is where we have the contracts that are supposed to be awarded at N20 million, but awarded at N200 million. It is then approved by the Federal Executive Council. This certificate of no objection is not more than the investigation that is supposed to be conducted internally by BPP.
“In line with section 5(Q) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, the BPP is mandated to perform procurement audit and submit such audit to the National Assembly bi-annually.
“The BPP had repeatedly failed and neglected to perform this crucial and statutory duty, particularly for conducts of post procurement audit and submission of reports to the National Assembly bi-annually.
“Based on section 61(c) of the Procurement Act 2007, the Bureau of Public Procurement is authorized to issue certificates of no objection to contracts awarded by relevant procurement entities. BPP has consistently engaged in under hand dealings with respect to the grant of certificate of no objection, abusing these powers to make pecuniary gains”.
The lawmaker expressed concern that if urgent steps were not taken to investigate the allegations and address proven infractions, the BPP will “likely transform itself from the regulator to a ‘disruptor’ and will endanger the entire public procurement system.
“It is time for the Senate to take the bull by the horn and ameliorate, correct and ensure that the BPP does what is right so hat social services will be available for the less privilege”, he added.
In his contribution, Senator Shehu Sani who urged his colleagues to clean up the system said civil servants now execute contracts for the government.
He said, “If there is any word that has become a household word in Nigeria, it is either corruption or anti-corruption. We have seen civil servants become contractors. The Senate should bring out practical solutions to clean up the system.
“We are creating a society that is enchanted. It is impossible for the country to achieve any enviable heights if the country continues in this form of corruption”.
On his part, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (Edo State) insisted that those involved in the alleged corrupt practices be compelled to face the wrath of the law.
“Agencies of government like the BPP, are subverting the law. If we want to be serious, we should be serious with this motion. We should bring out resolutions that are workable. I wonder why nobody is bothered about Bill of Quantity when awards of contracts are considered’’, Urhoghide stated.
Also speaking, deputy Leader of the Senate, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah said despite the fact that the anti-corruption war is being spearheaded by the executive, over 70 per cent of recoveries are from the same arm of government.
Na’Allah said, “Over 70 per cent of what is said to have been recovered were recovered from those in the executive arm of government. Whether we like it or not, the civil servants are the contractors. For the two years of aggressive fight against corruption, what can we do to reduce corruption?”
Reps Probe BPP Over Lack Of Enforcement
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday mandated its committees on public procurement and anti-corruption to probe the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) over alleged failure to exercise its powers on public procurement.
This followed the adoption of a motion by a member of the House, Afe Olowookere, in which he noted that the Public Procurement Act, 2007 gives BPP the powers to harmonize existing government policies and practices on public procurement for probity, accountability and transparency in all public procurement process.
The lawmaker said the BPP is also vested with the responsibility of pricing standards and benchmarks to ensure the application of fair, competitive, transparent, value-for-money standards and practices in the procurement process but has not lived up to its duties.
He decried a “situation where government contracts and projects that are of similar nature and content sited in the same vicinity are given out by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) at prices that are at variance with what can be considered as standardized prices or thresholds under the principle of international best practices, thus inhibiting government’s efforts in fighting corruption”.
According to him, the widespread breach of the provisions of the procurement Act by MDAs without any proven corrective measures taken or sanctions imposed by the BPP renders its existence a waste on the finances of government.
You’re Not Transparent, REC Nominee Tells Senate
Meanwhile, a Resident Electoral Commissioner nominee from Adamawa State, Mr Ibrahim Abdullahi, yesterday challenged the Senate to make its activities, ways and books open in order to redeem its battered image before the general public
Abdullahi who retired as a director of Department of State Services (DSS) attached to the National Assembly said this while responding to a questions by an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Committee member, Senator Ali Wakili (Bauchi South), on how the National Assembly can improve its image.
While suggesting to the lawmakers to stay in touch with their constituents, Abdullahi further advised them to be transparent in their activities in order to redeem their negative image in the eyes of the Nigerian public.
“Some National Assembly members are not really visiting their constituencies the way it should be. The activities, ways of the members as well as their books should be more opened”, Abdullahi said.
Senator Abdullahi Gumel (APC Jigawa North West), however, disagreed the REC nominee that lawmakers do not visit their constituencies often.
“80 to 85 per cent of the lawmakers go to their constituencies but unfortunately, the demands of people are too much because of the absence of the local government. The jobs of the local government have been taken over. Sometime, they (lawmakers) have to shy away until they have alert in their pockets”, he explained.
Senate Committee on INEC, yesterday began the screening of Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) nominees forwarded by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Senate for confirmation.
Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, who formally presented the nominees to the committee said President Buhari ensured due diligence before nominating the candidates.
Enang appealed to the committee chaired by Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC Bauchi North) to fast track the process, saying states have not been having RECs for long.
“The states have been vacant for a long time. If this is not addressed urgently, we may have a constitutional crises on our hands”, he said.
In his opening remarks, chairman of the committee called for collaboration with the nominees, if they are confirmed, to ensure the desired change in INEC.
Nazif added that the Senate was committed to contributing towards free, fair and credible polls that would “reflect the will of the people, and not the will of a few big men”.
The nominee from Abia state, Prof. Godswill Obioma, while fielding questions from the committee members, expressed commitment to adhere to the code of conduct and ethics required of a REC.
He added that his relationship with the governor of the state where he is posted, if confirmed, would be guided by law without any bias.
“We have to be independent of any partisan relationship, ensure equity, transparency and honesty, adhere to constitutional provisions regarding INEC and its Act”, he said.
The committee screened six other nominees and adjourned to continue today