By Emmanuel Addeh
The Global Forum for Accountability and Transparency, a non-political group in the Niger Delta, Tuesday urged the federal government to treat the alleged breach of the Public Procurement Act in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with the seriousness that it deserves.
The group argued that if a similar infraction could be punished in the National Examination Council (NECO), there was no reason overlooking the growing call for a probe into the activities of the interventionist agency, especially its flouting of the procurement act.
In a statement by the founder and Executive Director of the group, Joseph Ambakederimo, in Abuja, the group maintained that successive boards of the NDDC had flagrantly disregarded the 2007 act which stipulates the rules for the award of contracts.
According to the group, the extant act frowns upon contract splitting and payment of mobilisation fees in excess of the approved threshold of 15 per cent, citing violations of sections 19, 25, 35, 41, 42 of the 2007 law.
“There were mixed reactions a few days back when Nigerians woke up to the news of sacking of the Registrar and CEO of the National Examination Council (NECO), Professor Charles Uwakwe, and four others for issues of violating the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and corruption.
“The news was a welcome development even when the sack directive fell short of recommending the men for prosecution. However, we have to draw a nexus between the action taken on the NECO issue and what has been taking place in the NDDC.
“We are drawing this nexus between the NECO and NDDC because we are yet to see anyone made to go through any disciplinary measures or being prosecuted as a result of the violation of the procurement Act in the NDDC.
“There has been multiple acts of violations of the procurement act by successive boards of the commission , some of which includes contract splitting, payment of mobilisation fees in excess of the approved threshold of 15 per cent as stipulated in the 2007 Procurement Act and award of contracts without following due process,” it said.
Citing section 35 of the act, which states that payment of mobilisation fees should not be more than 15 per cent, the organisation said that the recent payment of about 55 per cent as mobilisation fees to a company that has to do with the Covid-19 medical supplies, ran foul of the law.
“These are payments that went through the audit and internal controls of the commission yet it was allowed to pass, if this is not crass impunity on display with this present management then we do not know what it is,” the group added.
It said that the recent move also violated sections 19, 25, 35, 41, 42 of the Public Procurement Act (2007).
It maintained that section 42 of the procurement act often relied upon by officials of the NDDC, which states that a procuring entity may carry out any emergency procurement where goods, works or services are only available from a particular supplier and no reasonable alternative or substitute exists, had been grossly abused.
The Interim Management Committee (IMC), the group said, cannot say the beneficiary companies of the Covid-19 contracts had the exclusive right of the goods and services to be procured and no other companies had such goods and services to be supplied to the NDDC.
“The Niger Delta group, therefore called on the president to constitute a special panel to probe the multi-billion emergency contracts and the payment of 55 per cent as mobilisation fees to some companies contrary to section 35 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
“The president needs to put his foot down and ensure that what is good for the goose is good for the gander,” the group noted.