IN clear violation of the new guideline by the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has spent the sum of N202 million on six contracts from the COVID-19 Intervention Fund without evidence of procurement plans, The ICIR has found out.
The projects were part of a list of 49 contracts awarded during the current pandemic with a total sum of N1,167,696,509.84.
Some of the fundings were donations from corporate organisations and individual Nigerians to support the Federal Government’s effort to cushion the effects of the pandemic. As of June 30, CACOVID has donated N30.15 billion.
CACOVID is a private-sector task force working in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) with the sole aim of combating Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria.
But while the 49 awarded projects were detailed in the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) of the Bureau of Public Procurements (BPP), six other contracted projects were missing from the BPP’s procurement plans database, even after the projects have been completed.
The projects include: Procurement of real-time PCR machine to the NCDC in the fight against COVID-19 (N9,836,400.00); establishment of molecular laboratory testing centre in Adamawa (N43,250,000.00); emergency procurement of critical supplies (N45,500,000.00) and an emergency supply of personal protective equipment, accessories cover and other items to the NCDC awarded at (N48,450,000.00).
Others were the procurement of VTM and SWAB Sticks (N16,974,000.00) and the procurement of critical supplies for COVID-19 response (N38,400,000.00).
The BPP has stated on its website that though, it temporarily suspended the normal Open Competitive Bidding Method due to the pandemic, only emergency procurement for essential goods would be conducted.
Nevertheless, the BPP gave a caveat allowing all MDAs with emergency projects, to submit procurement plans to its website before they can be awarded and payments made.
“All procuring entities are to prepare procurement plans for all projects that specifically respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the bureau stated in the guideline signed by Mamman Ahmadu, the Director-General. “Any project that is not included in the procurement plan of the procuring entity shall not be processed for payment notwithstanding the source of funding for the project.
“COVID-19 Projects not captured in NOCOPO may not be funded by the Federal Government for implementation.”
The decision, it stated, is to ensure transparency and accountability when projects are awarded, despite easing its strict procurement guidelines.
On May 28, Isaiah Yesufu, a top official of the BPP in a presentation to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) also reaffirmed the position of the Bureau on COVID-19 emergency procurements.
He said the pandemic had redefined global socio-economic activities including procurements. The new approach, he said, is in line with Section 43 of the PPA, 2007.
“A procuring entity may for the purpose of this Act, carry out an emergency procurement where: the country is either seriously threatened by or actually confronted with a disaster, catastrophe, war, insurrection or Act of God.”
More so, to ensure accountability and transparency, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), Federal Ministry of Finance directed government establishments benefitting from the COVID-19 funds to publish daily payment reports, the amounts, purpose of which payments were made, including the beneficiaries of any payment on the open treasury portal.
This is applicable to any payments above N5 million made from the COVID-19 fund.
“In addition, each MDA shall publish a detailed report of its activities relating to COVID-19 Fund on its website at the end of every week,” AGF framework for the management of COVID-19 fund, signed by Ahmed Idris stated.
Idris signed the working document on May 5. Though NCDC disclosed major items purchased with the COVID-19 fund, the monthly fiscal account which should detail MDAs’ spendings on COVID-19 has not been uploaded as required by the new guideline. In fact, the last update was in February.
Aside from the NCDC, the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki has also failed to comply with the emergency procurement guidelines. All the three projects awarded in 2020 by the facility were missing in the procurement plan.
The identity of the contractor who got nearly N8 million for the supply and installation of 100KVA soundproof power for the Lassa Fever COVID-19 centre was also missing in the contract report.
MDAs compliance with procurement guideline
Beyond NCDC and Abakaliki teaching hospital, The ICIR extended its search to other agencies and federal government establishments that have executed similar emergency projects during the pandemic.
For instance, the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, awarded and executed three projects. The three projects were listed in the procurement plan, including an additional project yet to be awarded.
The projects include procurement of hospital mattresses for isolation ward at N350, 000; supply of AVl 9180 electrolyte analyser at the sum of N1,2000,000 and purchase of hand sanitisers awarded at N1,170,000.
Unlike NCDC and Abakaliki teaching hospital, projects executed by the OAU teaching hospital reflected in the procurement plan despite being funded from the hospitals Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
The Environmental Health Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON), through the Federal Ministry of Environment also executed 11 projects and each of the projects reflected in the procurement plan as stipulated by the procurement guideline.
Similarly, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), a para-military organisation under the Federal Ministry of Interior awarded nine projects and all the projects have procurement plans.
The ICIR contacted Emeka Oguanuo, the NCDC Spokesperson to verify why the contracts were missing in the database, contrary to the BPP guideline but he could not immediately provide an answer to the request.
“Personally, I don’t know. We have a procurement unit,” Oguanuo told the reporter. He thereafter scheduled an appointment with The ICIR to visit the NCDC Headquarters.
On Thursday, July 23, the appointment day, the reporter visited NCDC. After waiting for almost an hour, Oguanuo appeared to the reporter at the security point and said the Director of Procurement was out of town.
He said the NCDC official would not return until 27th July. The ICIR asked if he could speak with the deputy head of the procurement department, but he said the official was in a meeting.
Eventually, he advised the reporter to send an official request to the NCDC email: [email protected] The email was sent on July 23 as suggested but as of the time of this report, no response came from the Centre. And the spokesperson did not also revert.
MDAs must submit procurement plans – BPP
On July 24, Segun Simmons, BPP spokesperson was contacted to verify possible implications of flouting the procurement guideline. After a brief conversation to ascertain the exact breach, he invited The ICIR to the BPP Headquarters in Abuja.
During the meeting with Eze Obasi, the Director for Special Procurement, he noted that the MDAs are expected to send their procurement plans to the NOCOPO. They ought to send procurement records as well but the procurement plans should precede projects awarded by the relevant agencies.
“We are mandating them to key into the NOCOPO. There is already a circular to MDAs to send all procurement plans of 2020 and procurement records of 2019 must be uploaded to the portal,” Obasi said.
“The intention is to see what each agency is doing and they also need to update us that they have uploaded their procurement plans and procurement records.”
He said the MDAs were given a deadline of July 31 to upload the details with their revised procurement plans in line with the amended budget.
Obasi emphasised that the guidelines were also applicable to projects executed from the COVID-19 fund as with the case of NCDC.
Flouting these provisions, he noted, would attract sanctions as stipulated in Section 58 of the BPP Act.
Nevertheless, the director explained that procurement audits would be conducted after the budget circle with supports from the Accountant-General’s office, the antigraft agencies, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
The intention of sending procurement plans and procurement record, it was gathered is to monitor procurement activities of the agencies.
“…The bureau will still carry out procurement audit and we will do it with Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the accountant general’s office to find out if there has been infringement and any infringement would be brought to book in line with what the Act says.”
“In sending the procurement plans, they will include the method adopted by the agencies and it is that method we will be looking for when we go for a procurement audit.”
In his reaction, Joshua Olufemi, Executive Director of Dataphyte said the coordinating or regulatory agencies such as BPP, OAGF ought to do more to ensure full compliance with prepared guidelines.
A lot of procurement personnel at the MDAs, he noted, are still new to the regulation as well as the policy framework, “even though some are also caught in the curse of corruption.”
However, Olufemi advocated for sanctions from the BPP to ensure compliance.
“Releases to MDAs and contractors on projects should be tied to corruption assessment, compliance even during emergencies,” he suggested.
“Whatever makes a contractor or MDA inadequate or ineligible before COVID will very likely repeat itself during an emergency procurement. Above all, tools and templates should be provided to MDAs to ease the development of planning documents.”
We are monitoring COVID-19 procurements – ICPC
When contacted, Azuka Ogugua, the ICPC spokesperson said the Commission is currently monitoring the COVID-19 procurement processes. She also acknowledged the Commission’s partnership with the BPP and Office of the Accountant General of the federation to ensure the procurement guidelines are adhered to strictly.
“The Commission is monitoring the procurement process which is still ongoing and deserving cases will be investigated,” she told The ICIR.
The spokesperson, however, said the reporter would need to send a petition to the Commission for a possible investigation.
“It could be something we can investigate if you point us in the right direction. We may do a preventive engagement because we investigate particular individuals and particular process but then, we can also study the process. ….if there is anything that BPP flags to us, we would work with them.”
But contrary to the statement of Mrs. Ogugua, the ICPC is mandated to prohibit corrupt practices and other related offences without waiting for such a petition.