Award of contract remains one of the universally acceptable methods of administering execution of project in a transparent, accountable and orderly manner. Its practice was seeing as sanctity, judicious and exclusively for professionally high moral officials. The bid and award of contracts were designed to be handled by well established institutions or agencies under an Act or law made by political or democratic institutions. This is why the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which derived its establishment from the Act of National Assembly (NASS) in 2000 was giving the statutory mandate to bid and award contracts.
However, careful measures should be employed not to abuse this privilege simple because the proposed strategic location of road infrastructure (i.e. sitting of projects) and its uninterrupted process of execution have dual dimensional benefit::
1) The beneficiaries can be relieved of socio-economic burden hence it provides easy movement of goods and services resulting in drastic reduction of psychological stress thereby increase productivity.
2) On the other hand, the service provider (Government) will earn an added credit for demonstrating its responsive practical commitment to providing social amenities which accounts for increase in its public works.
NDDC in this context has since inception by way of compliance demonstrated its statutory mandate. This includes:
a) Prequalification of contractors.
b) Tender advertisement
c) Bidding process
d) Award of contract
e) Mobilization of contractors to project site (site handover vis-à-vis)
f) Monitoring of projects.
g) Supervision or regulation of project financing
h) Commissioning of project/retention, and so on.
This mandate will only be applied upon the procurement of project under NDDC budgetary allocation in a giving fiscal year.
Method of procurement of projects includes:
2) Budget or appropriation
3) Budget presentation/defence
5) Basic engineering measurement accuracy (BEMA), and so on.
The above procurement procedures are equally regarded as project documentation. In this context, several institutions like National Assembly (NASS), Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and Award-companies have separate responsive roles to play. For instance, National Assembly is conferred with the powers of appropriation, organizing budget defence and approval while BPP procures and keep accurate record of all the projects ready for bid and award by NDDC and others in that order. The reason for this segmental process was to ensure that no undue advantage or fraud is taking by any of the agencies against any project that is mapped out for bid and award as well as execution in a fiscal year.
The above position was also designed primarily to achieve a transparent process of tender or contract bidding which must be strictly followed to avoid distortion of tender at bidding stage. It is therefore, worrisome to note that NDDC has continued to contravene its part of mandate thereby make it impossible to administer the procurement process to a logical conclusion. This assertion was based on our experience whose explanation is provided below:
THE CONSEQUENCES OF DOCTORING A PROCURED PROJECT
The commitment of Ohuru Youth Grand Alliance (OYGA) to ensuring that the position of law is applied in addressing the fraud on the bidding stage of “Obohia-Ohuru-Aba road with spur to Ohambele-Obeaku road project”. This presentation was made in full view of NDDC through the office of Executive Director Project (EDP) by the above youth organization on April 17, 2014.
It is no longer news that Obohia-Ohuru-Aba road with spur to Ohambele-Obeaku road project was duly procured as one of the 44 mega projects between 2008/2009 in line with government public procurement policy. Following this; fund was mapped out for its execution in line with Fiscal Responsibility policy. All these were statutorily arranged in pursuance to achieving government established method of running its programs and policies which includes; financing, organizing, locating, monitoring as well as managing to ensure transparency, accountability and hitch free provisions and development of infrastructures.
In readiness to bid, the project was doctored by removing Ohuru from the project name and replace with Ohanku. The original procured project which is Obohia-Ohuru Aba road with spur to Ohambele-Obeaku road was now changed to Obohia-Ohanku Aba road and awarded to one of the bidder companies. Note that Obohia-Ohuru Aba road with spur Ohambele-Obeaku road project was duly proposed, budgeted, approved and advertised in various daily national newspapers amongst which are Vanguard Edition of Friday October 10, 2008. Note also, that Obohia-Ohanku Aba road was not proposed, budgeted for nor approved neither advertised in any newspaper. NDDC in this instance was given the mandate to bid and award. What happened from here was that NDDC exposed itself to scam and jettisoned the due processed project in favour of a politician from the area where the project was doctored or diverted to. Further findings revealed that the contractors that bided for the illegally acquired project were pre-qualified through the advertisement where the proposed projects were short-listed. Only the three contractors to be presented with purported tender and the contractors without asking question participated in the false bidding.
The implication of this is that when a project is awarded to a contractor in this manner, it creates avenue where part of the contract sum will be shared in percentage or commission between the client and contractor, of-course, this may lead to substandard execution of project or worst still abandonment.
Now, those that took the oath of upholding government policies have turned round to be the breakers of it. If the laws were made to break, then there is no point making laws. If it is where crime is giving the due punishment it deserves, the NDDC staff that committed this intentional blunder for pecuniary interest would have been fished out to face the wrath of the law to serve as deterrent to others who perhaps are nursing similar ideas.
The study on Public Procurement by Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), clearly expressed that a contract is subject to cancellation if eventually discovered that it was wrongly bided after being procured in accordance with “PUBLIC PROCUREMENT ACT”. Public procurement Act and Fiscal Responsibility Act were promulgated to check the excesses of officials of government established agencies that are charged with the task of bidding and awarding contracts.
Relatively, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is an agency of Federal Government whose objective amongst others is to provide uncompromised atmosphere where government rules and regulations will function without interference and tamper. It is not to engage in sharp practices while processing “CONTRACT AWARD” thereby, bringing Niger Delta Communities to knock horns against each other.
Respectively, strict adherence to implementation of government policies should be seen by government agencies as tools of gaining public trust, confidence as well as continued guarantee for public good.
A project that meets procurement requirement but doctored along bidding stage to favour another project that has no trace of procurement record, is either that “high powered clash of interest played a role or the favored contractor and his accomplice wanted it at all cost” otherwise, nobody could be specific to what led to abandonment of certified project by Bureau of Public procurement (BPP). Even if the project existed before or after, provided the target of pre-qualification of contractors was not directed at it, it is absolutely unlawful to bid for it not to talk of award. Such act will only produce FISCAL IRRESPONSIBILITY and abuse of PROCUREMENT PROCESS which is punishable by law.
Another point to note was that, lack of due consultation of the stakeholders BEFORE, DURING and AFTER the bid and award of the doctored project if there was any genuine reason, was additional discredit to the commission.
The prequalified contractors who were deceived to bid a wrong project from what they picked initially in the newspaper vendor where the under-listed proposed projects were advertised have been deprived of their public good. Perhaps, one of them who initiated the project at the instance of the respective area would have won the bid to save the benefiting area of prolonged untold economic hardship. Besides, the supposed execution period of the project has passed out without any quantum of touch on the proposed site.
What this means is that, Government will re-budget for the project with an increased allocation to withstand the current cost of construction materials which ordinarily, if the right thing was done, it would have saved unwise spending as Government will no longer bother to do a fresh budget for it.
The above has clearly exposed how Government wastes money to administrative impunity. The more a project is delayed or denied owing to avoidable circumstance, the more cost of materials increases in the market and to ensure delivery of project, Government must accommodate miscellaneous expenditure. This is why Government policies must be respected by those charged with the responsibility of keeping the administrative laws.
Well, it is regrettable that the illegally acquired project (Obohia-Ohanku-Aba Road), is already under construction by the favored contractor Herbertech Nigeria Limited. However, it is advisable that the process be reviewed to give way for speedy award of the legal project (Obohia-Ohuru-Aba Road with spur to Ohambele-Obeaku Road) to the initiator contractor Akomec Nigeria Limited who regrettably, was among the bidders of the doctored project.
Commendably, the project has been recaptured in 2012 and 2013 NDDC budget which means that a partial steps towards correction of the mistake is already on. The Commission should take step further to enforce the provisions of Bureau of Public Procurement Act (BPP) to justify the issue which stipulates that “A mega project is due for bid/award only when it has passed through procurement with evidence of tender advertisement. In the event of illegal or wrong biding/award, the project is subject to cancellation for fresh budget in the next Fiscal year and the process will be repeated without the benefited contractor”.
Ohuru Youth Grand Alliance (OYGA) as watch dog of the society has exhaustively carried out investigation on this matter and came to understand that this deliberate act by NDDC was targeted at causing confusion, infighting or cold war among the respective communities on the illegal and legal projects.
People tend to resort to litigation due to the tendency of operating the reverse side of provisions of law. If Government agents need to be trusted they should prove to the citizens of their sincerity to keeping to what is put under their custody. With this, people will not be unnecessarily ambitious of provisions of infrastructure as with slow and steady motion of Government approach, physical infrastructure will benefit every side.
Ohuru Youth Grand Alliance (OYGA)