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CONTROVERSY: Questions trail execution of multi-billion naira TETFUND projects in public varsities (Part 1)

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There are disturbing signals about how public universities are managing or mismanaging huge sums of money allocated to them annually to execute Tertiary Institution Trust Fund (TETFUND) projects. Investigation revealed that many of the institutions executing the projects engage in questionable practices. INNOCENT DURU, who visited some federal universities in the Southwest, reports.


EARLY this year, the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, submitted the institution’s 2015-2018 Budget Performance and 2019 Proposed Budget Reports to the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND.

On page 95 of the document, the institution listed the construction of Pharmacy Building Phase 2 as part of the scheduled TETFUND projects for January-December, 2015. The contract was awarded for the sum of N16,598,644.69, as indicated in the document.  A copy of the document, dated March 20, 2019, was obtained by our correspondent.

Investigation, however, revealed that the building in question had been constructed and commissioned before the scheduled execution period. The inscription on the building, which reads: ‘Pharmacy Building Phase II, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife, Nigeria,’ indicated that it was officially commissioned by the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Prof. Rowland Ndoma-Egba, on Monday, December 8, 2014.

An inscription showing the Pharmacy building phase 2 was commissioned in 2014

Students and lecturers in the faculty, who spoke with our correspondent, were shocked that the completed and commissioned project was included in the 2015 schedule. They also told our correspondent that aside the building, there is no other one designated as Pharmacy Building Phase II in the institution.

A student of the institution, who pleaded anonymity, said: “This is the only Pharmacy Building Phase II that we have. It was built and commissioned long ago. I have spent more than three years here, and I met the building already completed when I was admitted. I don’t know of any other Pharmacy Building II. Something is definitely amiss.”

Another project whose inclusion in the schedule of merged TETFUND project for January-December, 2015, is generating controversy is the construction of academic lecture rooms and offices for the institution’s Faculty of Administration.

A project signpost erected close to the building revealed that it was done during the year 2009-2012 merged intervention projects. Curiously, the names of the contractor, architect, structural engineer, mechanical engineer and quantity surveyor listed on the signpost were also included in the 2015 schedule.

On pages 96 and 97 of the document, the institution listed the following as part of the budget for the building construction in the 2015 schedule:

(I) Construction of academic lecture rooms and offices of Faculty of Admin (Structural Engr Services) awarded for N1,499,149.67, as indicated in the document.

  1. II) Construction of academic lecture rooms and offices of the Faculty of Admin awarded in the document for the sum of N2,004,699.56.

III) Construction of academic lecture rooms and offices of the Faculty of Admin (Arch. Consultancy) awarded in the document for N3,021,808.41.

  1. IV) Construction of academic lecture rooms and offices of Faculty of Admin (Q/S Consultancy) awarded in the document for the sum of N1,473,890.60.

(V) Construction of academic lecture rooms and offices of Faculty of Admin (Q/S Consultancy) awarded in the document for N21,160,433.49.

(VI) Construction of academic lecture rooms and offices of the Faculty of Admin awarded in the document for the sum of N49,714,323.66.

But students and officials of the faculty who spoke with our correspondent expressed surprise at the development.

A member of the staff, who spoke with our correspondent in confidence, said: “This is scandalous. This is the building you are talking about. As far as I know, there is no Faculty of Admin building anywhere else.

“How can the management include a project that had long been completed in the 2015 schedule?.”

Added to the list of inexplicable projects in the 2015 schedule is the completion of a workshop complex for the Entrepreneurship Centre, which incidentally was also part of the 2009 -2012 merged projects.

Front view of Pharmacy building Phase 2 commissioned in 2014 but included in 2015 project schedule

The myriads of contracts listed under the project include:

  1. I) Procurement of equipment for entrepreneurship centre awarded in the for N4,087, 828.41.
  2. II) Construction of office complex for entrepreneurship complex builders wk cert 3 awarded in the document for N13,384,295.41.

III) Construction of office complex for entrepreneurship centre awarded in the document for N6,864,124.18.

  1. IV) Procurement of equipment for entrepreneurship centre II. Cert .2 awarded in the document for N8,196,210.75.
  2. V) Construction of office complex for entrepreneurship complex (M &E) awarded in the document for N1,845,774.00.
  3. VI) Construction of office complex for entrepreneurship complex awarded in the document for N3,861,130.27.

VII) Procurement of equipment for entrepreneurship centre awarded in the document for N16, 655, 013.11.

VIII) Procurement of equipment for entrepreneurship centre awarded in the document for N12,567,184.70.

Investigation further showed that the Pharmacy Building Phase 3, which was included in the 2015 schedule with several other projects listed under it, does not exist anywhere in the institution. Students and lecturers in the faculty said that no existing structure or one under construction bears the appellation.

A lecturer in the faculty said: “We don’t have any structure called Pharmacy Building Phase 3. What we have is phase one and phase two. I am also not aware of any ongoing building by that name. If there is any like that, there is no way we the staff and the students would not know.”

Other contracts listed under the project include:

(I) Construction of Pharmacy Building Phase 3 awarded in the document for the sum of N1,676,475.71.

(II) Construction of Pharmacy Building Phase 3 awarded in the document  for the sum of N836,929.39.

(III) Construction of Pharmacy Building Phase 3 awarded in the document for the sum of N1,120,072.52.

(IV) Construction of Pharmacy Building Phase 3 M & E Engr Consultancy Services awarded in the document for the sum of N896,058.00.

(V) Construction of Pharmacy Building Phase 3, Structural Consultancy Services awarded in the document for the sum of N666,543.50.

(VI) Construction of Pharmacy Building Phase 3 QT Survey Consultancy Services awarded for the sum of N666,449.95.

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(VII) Construction of Pharmacy Building Phase 3 Architectural Consultancy Services awarded in the document for the sum of N3,840,199.57.

(VIII) Construction of Pharmacy Building Phase 3 (builders wk) cert 3 awarded in the document for the sum of N4,362,905.18.

(IX) Construction of Pharmacy Building Phase 3 (builders wk) cert 3 bal awarded in the document for the sum of N16, 598,644.69.

(X) Construction of external works on pharmacy building phase 3 awarded for the sum of N2,623,940.90.

(XI) Construction of external works on pharmacy building phase 3 awarded in the document for the sum of N2,612,510.77.

(XII) Construction of external works on pharmacy building phase 3 awarded in the document for the sum of N5,255,374.42.

(XIII) Construction of pharmacy building phase 3 external works (Memorandum voucher) awarded N16, 598,644.67.

(XIV) Construction of pharmacy building phase 3 external works (Memorandum voucher) awarded in the document N38,454,682.72.

(XV) Construction of pharmacy building phase 3 (Memorandum voucher) awarded in the document for the sum of N836,929.39.

(XVI) Construction of pharmacy building phase 3 awarded in the document for the sum of N1,787,011.51.

(XVII) Construction of Faculty of Pharmacy building phase 3 awarded in the document for the sum of N16, 032,899.86.

(XVIII) Construction of Faculty of Pharmacy building phase 3 (consultancy services QS) awarded in the document for the sum of N833.062.45.

Varsity buys time endlessly

OAU’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Abiodun Olanrewaju, requested that questions be sent to his email address when our correspondent contacted him for comments. But when the correspondent later called on September 22 to remind him about the questions that were sent to his email address as requested, he said he was still awaiting the responses of the Vice-Chancellor and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of administration.

The PRO said: “I have sent it (questions) to the VC and also sent it to the Deputy VC admin who is in charge.”

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“He said the VC said he has sent it to the Director, Physical Planning Development Unit (PPDU) of the university. By tomorrow, can you call me by 11 am so that I get the feedback for you?”

The correspondent also called on September 23 as requested by the institution’s image maker, but he only said he was in a meeting and would call back later. It turned out, however, that he did not call back as promised while subsequent calls made to his mobile phone went unanswered.

When he eventually picked the call on Tuesday, October 1, and our correspondent told him about the fruitless efforts made to reach him on the phone, he apologised, saying: “I am sorry. We were too busy and my phones were with my colleagues in the office. I anchor programmes and would not want to be holding phones so that it would not be vibrating with the microphone.

“The vice-chancellor will arrive today by the grace of God. I called the director PPDU and he said he would not send it to me until the V-C has vetted it. The VC travelled outside the country. Whatever he says is the final. If he had vetted the whole thing, I would send it to you straight. “

Asked how soon that would be, he said: “It depends on him (VC). The plane would land by 4pm today. Let’s see how it goes please.”

In spite of the promises made by the PRO, however, the institution was yet to respond to our findings as at press time.

Shocking findings at FUOYE

Our correspondent’s inspection of the implementation of TETFUND projects at the Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) also revealed discomforting discoveries.

The execution of capital projects at the Oye Campus of the institution was fraught with anomalies. All the signposts in front of the ongoing building projects except one had project titles that were different from what was stated in the document submitted by the institution to the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND early this year.

The document, dated March 22, 2019, and signed by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Kayode Soremekun, was obtained by our correspondent.

The ‘Construction and Furnishing of Twin Lecture Theatre for Faculty of Management Sciences’ is one of the capital projects whose signposts bear different project titles. Instead of ‘Construction of Twin Lecture Theatre for Faculty of Management’, the inscription on the signpost reads ‘Construction of Twin Chamber Lecture Theatre.’

The contract for the building, which is a bungalow, according to findings, was awarded for N126, 939, 918.00. The contract, according to the document prepared by the institution, was awarded in May 2018 without a date for its completion.

Work was still ongoing on the building. The furnishing was yet to commence at the time of the visit. All the external works and interlocking of the ground were also yet to commence.

The same befuddling development was observed when this reporter visited a project that was meant to be the construction of Twin Lecture Theatre for Faculty of Pharmacy. The signpost in front of the building had no link to any of the projects the institution listed as ongoing in the document submitted to the Senate Committee.

Faculty of Pharmacy twin lecture theatre with signpost bearing 250 seat capacity

Instead of construction of Twin Lecture Theatre for Faculty of Pharmacy, the inscription on the signpost reads: “Proposed 250 Seat Capacity Twin Lecture Halls.” Checks revealed that the project was awarded in June 2018 for N113, 845,287.00.

Confusing as it was, some lecturers and students in the institution identified it as the lecture theatre for the Faculty of Pharmacy. Work was still going on the building when our correspondent visited, but the furnishing was yet to commence.

Similar confusion was experienced when the reporter went in search of the Pharmacy building project in the institution. A gigantic building with a signpost that read “Construction of Faculty of Basic Medical Science” was sighted at the Phase 3 area, but a closer look at the board showed it was not a TETFUND project.

 

Further search took the reporter close to the male hostel where another big building painted yellow and brown was located. In front of the building were skeletons of iron chairs heaped on the two sides of the entrance. On the building was inscribed ‘TETFUND Annual Intervention 2014, 2015, 2016 Merged”. Two signposts were in front of the building. The inscription on the first signpost reads: ‘Nigerian Universities Education Students Association (NUESA) Federal University, Oye-Ekiti Chapter. Welcome to Faculty of Education’. The other signpost, which has TETFUND inscribed on it, has the names and addresses of the contractor, architect and structural engineer boldly written on it but does not have  the title of the project. The project was awarded by the institution for N203,315,957.50 in May, 2018.

Proposed Faculty of Pharmacy building with a signpost of Faculty of Education at FUOYE

Despite the confusion created by the signposts, findings showed that the structure is the new Pharmacy building. Sources within the institution alleged that the confusion was a deliberate ploy by the university authorities to hoodwink accreditation officials into thinking that the institution had infrastructure in disciplines where it is lacking.

“The confusion regarding the inscriptions is a result of the ongoing accreditation of courses in the institution,” said a lecturer who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation. “The management is doing everything possible to pull wool over the visitors’ eyes.  This is the simple reason for some of these rearrangements. It is a confirmation of the fact that many unseemly things are going on here,” the concerned lecturer said.

Another lecturer, who also did not want his name in print for security reasons, said: “Ordinarily, every sign post meant for TETFUND projects should bear the title of the project so that everybody could see and know at a glance what the project is meant for. But everything here is shrouded in secrecy. I am not surprised to see that the information contained in the document submitted by the institution to the Senate committee is different from what is on ground here.”

The only signpost whose inscription tallies with the project indicated in the document to the Senate committee is the ‘construction and furnishing of academic office block.’ Work was still not completed on the building during our visit.

The building contract was awarded for N41,807,792.00 in June 2018. Checks inside the building revealed that the aspect of furnishing was yet to be carried out.

FUOYE reacts

Reacting to our question on the projects, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the institution, Godfrey Bakji, said in a WhatsApp message: “These projects have been executed according to specifications, with some ready for handing over by the contractors. I am sending the photographs to you.”

The PRO went on to send the pictures of the buildings. Interestingly, two of the pictures he sent as twin lecture theatres for the faculties of Management Science and Pharmacy were the buildings whose signposts read: ‘Construction of Twin Chamber Lecture Theatre and Proposed 250 Seat Capacity Twin Lecture Halls’ respectively.

When the reporter demanded to know why the signposts had misleading inscriptions, Bakji said: “I don’t have immediate comment to make. When it is ready, I will get in touch with you.” The spokesman was yet to get back to the reporter at the time of filing this report.

Concerns over slow pace of projects execution in UI

At the University of Ibadan, in the Oyo State capital, two multi-million naira TETFUND projects have remained uncompleted in about one decade since the contracts were awarded.

One of the projects, for the completion of Faculty of Education Building Extension Complex, a 2009 TETFUND intervention project, according to our investigation, was abandoned along the line and has remained uncompleted for the past 10 years.

One of the pillars of Faculty of Education building (UI) recently adjusted after a shoddy job by the initial contractor

A member of staff of the institution said the construction work was partly stalled because the contractor did a shoddy job that would have led to the building collapsing in the future and possibly killing people. It was gathered that the initial contractor was sacked, paving the way for a new one.

The source said: “The building project has been on for a decade without any hope that it will be completed soon. It was abandoned sometime in 2016 but work is just resuming there now.  A good number of students who would have benefited from it by way of using it for the purpose it is meant for have graduated.

“The contractor that was handling the job before did very tiny pillars that would not be able to carry the weight of the building over a period of time. If you look at it now, you will see that the sizes of the pillars have been increased by the new contractor. But there are fears that the pillars are still not big enough to firmly hold the building.”

He said there was need for the school management to tell the public how many floors the building will be, adding: “It is possible that the project is more than a storey building. If another person takes charge of the school and decides to add another floor to it, the pillars and the foundation may not be able to hold the extra load. The implication is better imagined than experienced.”

The source regretted that no punishment was meted out to the contractor that did the initial shoddy job to serve as deterrent to others.

He said: “In saner climes, such a contractor would be reported to both the professional body that he belongs to and an anti-graft agency like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for proper investigation and possible refund of some of the money he collected.”

The second TETFund project in the premier institution that is yet to be completed is the proposed building of offices/lecture rooms for Faculty of Arts (2011-2014). Some artisans were seen milling around the building when our correspondent visited. One of them displayed a high level of hostility to the reporter when he attempted taking the picture of the building.

A source in the institution said that such act of aggression should not come as a surprise.

He said: “You should expect that kind of hostile reaction because they are not sure what you want to do with the pictures of a building that has remained uncompleted for many years.

“If they knew that you were a newspaper reporter, they probably would not have  allowed you to go out with the pictures.  For us, we know that there are a lot of cover-ups here and there, but with time, they will all be exposed.”

UI management gives partial response

The management of the University of Ibadan could only respond to some of our findings, hinging its failure to respond to others on the failure of the project manager to respond to calls.

The institution’s spokesman, Olatunji Oladejo, said: “Work is ongoing on the Faculty of Arts project. It was this year that the VC laid the foundation. What is the problem with that? It was not last year, it was this year. The Faculty of Arts extension building was this year. I am aware of it. That is a straightforward one. It was when the fund was released that it was awarded.

“All those things have to do with the bursary, the VC and the procurement committee. Until I am able to find out from all those three areas, I may not in a strait jacket answer your question.”

When the reporter got back to him a week later, Oladejo promised to call back the following day to provide the remaining information. On the said date (September 23), however, our correspondent called and reminded him of his promise to call in the morning of that day, and he said: “Yes, I said so. I tried to call one Mr Oni who is in charge of all these TETFUND projects so that he could link you, but he didn’t pick his calls.”

When the reporter reminded him that it was more than a week he had been seeking the institution’s response on the findings, he said: “I know, but I am not in charge. I cannot know all these, whether abandoned or not abandoned. We have scheduled officers here and there. I have called him several times. I wouldn’t know… he didn’t pick his calls. May be he was somewhere; may be in a church programme anyway.”

Asked when he would provide the requested response, the PRO said: “I will continue to call him.”

He subsequently agreed to a suggestion by the reporter that he should send a text message to the man in charge of the projects. However, calls made to his mobile phone thereafter went unanswered.  A message sent to his email address requesting his response to the findings was also not responded to.

This investigation was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

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