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COVID-19: Nigeria health agency hoards information about N444m contract awards

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THE award of 15 contracts to a single firm by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) last year has raised questions about the agency’s public spending.

NPHCDA’s decision had also raised suspicion when it disregarded the Freedom of Information (FOI) request on contracts awarded during the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.

The agency, without justification,  awarded 15 contracts worth over N444 million to Marvelous Mike Press Limited in 2020.


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The firm did not undergo the normal open competitive procurement process because the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) had approved emergency procurement due to the pandemic.

But, agencies awarding contracts are expected to satisfy certain conditions, such as providing details of their procurement, including a procurement plan.

NPHCDA failed to provide accurate details of the procurements.

Hence, on October 22, The ICIR sent an FOI request to the agency asking for a copy of the contract documents to print flip charts and COVID-19 related materials.

The letter with reference number: ICIR/ED/FOI/1021/NPHCDA03 was acknowledged, but there was no response as at the time of filing this report.

What the FOI law says

The request was in line with Section 2 (3) and (4) of the FOI Act 2011, which require all “information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution to be widely disseminated and made readily available.”

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Section 10 of the Act spelt out sanctions for dishonouring FOI requests.

“It is a criminal offence punishable on conviction by the Court with a minimum of 1 year imprisonment for any officer or head of any government or public institution to which this Act applies to willfully destroy any records kept in his custody or attempt to doctor or otherwise alter same before they are released to any person, entity or community applying for it.”

EARLIER, the ICIR, reported how some MDAs took advantage of the COVID-19 emergency procurement process to award questionable contracts.

Contract frauds have become a norm in the country, stifling the nation’s growth and exacerbating poverty.

In May, the Chartered Institute of Forensics and Fraud Examiners of Nigeria announced Nigeria loses N300 billion annually to procurement frauds.

Earlier, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management of Nigeria also attributed 30 per cent annual loss of Nigeria’s resources to the same challenge.

The budget spending of the Federal Ministry of Health, the body supervising activities of the NPHCDA, was believed to have been suspended in 2019, also due to procurement-related matters.

Nevertheless, findings from the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) detailing COVID-19 emergency procurements showed how a category of the NPHCDA contracts on flip charts production gulped about N288 million.

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The printing and supply of training manuals took another share of over N153 million, while the last category identified as the “printing and supply of preparedness and response guidelines on COVID-19 (ES and HCH)” was awarded at N2.33 million.

Each of the contracts was completed in two days.

Contracts lack detailed specifications, award dates, completion dates

A study of the controversial 15 contracts on the NOCOPO platforms showed they lack other vital information such as unique contract identification number, total units of printed materials (flip charts, training manuals, etc.), the contract award date, contract completion date, the project specification among others.

For instance, a few lines of the spending include the “printing and supply of flip charts on COVID-19 for community volunteers at Ekiti, Lagos and Ogun States N26.31 million;

“Printing and supply of flip charts on COVID-19 for community volunteers at Benue, Kogi and Kwara States N23.28 million, and N41.91 million for the printing and supply of training manual for community volunteers at South-East Zone, South-South Zone, and South-West Zone.”

Further breakdown of the spending is: “printing and supply of training manual for community volunteers at NCZ NEZ & NWZ at N27.15 million.

“The Printing and Supply of Flip charts on COVID-19 for community volunteers at Kaduna, Kano, and Jigawa States for N30.14 million and printing and supply of training manual for community volunteers at North Central Zone (NCZ), North East Zone (NEZ) & North West Zone (NWZ) at N33.11 million;

“Printing and supply of flip charts on COVID-19 for community volunteers at Nasarawa, FCT and Niger States N27.54 million;

“Printing and supply of flip charts on COVID-19 for community volunteers at SSZ at N39.16 million.”

Also, “the printing and supply of training manual for Primary Health Care (PHC) workers at the north-west zone at N19.68 million;

“The printing and supply of flip charts on COVID-19 for community volunteers at Katsina, Kebbi, and Zamfara, and Sokoto, States N30.54 million;

“The printing and supply of flip charts on COVID-19 for community volunteers at Ondo, Oyo and Osun States N26.37 million;

“The printing and supply of flip charts on COVID-19 for community volunteers at South-East Zone N44.76 million;

“The printing and supply of preparedness and response guidelines on COVID-19 (ES and HCH) at N2.33 million;

“The printing and supply of training manual for PHC workers at the north-central and north-east zone at N31.45 million and printing and supply of Flip Charts on COVID-19 for community volunteers at North East Zone at N40.57 million.”

Meanwhile, in this report, The ICIR visited at least four printing firms to verify the actual printing cost of some of the items awarded.

At Yaliam Press Limited, wall flip chart (Calendar like), A3, on art paper 135gsm, with six pages, and complete finishing – 200 copies goes for N548,000 at N2,740 per copy.

For A3 Poster size with the similar features above but full-colour, trim to size, where 100 copies will be gloss laminated from 2,000 copies, the price was N27,040 at N13.52 per copy.

The A4 Poster, on Art paper 135gsm, one sheet, full-colour, trim to size, and wrap with gloss laminate of 100 copies out of 2,000 copies is N162,000 at N81 per copy.

“A3 posters 20,000 copies N528, 000; A4 posters 20,000 copies is N288,000; A4 paper laminated 200 copies is N25,000; and A4 6 sheets inside 200 copies is N80,000.00,” part of the quotation read.

However, it is difficult to ascertain any case of contract bloating because the unit (quantity) of the produced printed materials was not made public in the Nocopo platform.

The ICIR called Head of Media and Public Relations, Mohammed Ohitoto for comment, he did not answer the call and did not respond to the message.

Olugbenga is an Investigative Reporter with The ICIR. Email address: [email protected] Twitter handle: @OluAdanikin

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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