By Mary Bassey
Following an International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)-funded investigation by CrossRiverWatch which revealing a large-scale breach of the public procurement processes by the Cross River State Government in 2019 and 2020, stakeholders have called for a probe into the contracts.
The investigation (read it here) established that contracts worth over N600 million were awarded in manners that questioned the integrity of the state government.
Nine companies not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) got contracts. Three years after some contracts are yet to be completed and handed over, and legitimate companies were kicked aside during the procurement process.
The scheme was first observed in a 2019 investigation where the government awarded 40 contracts valued at over N6.9 billion to 31 companies. Of the 31, seven were illegally awarded contracts as they were not registered with the CAC, a fundamental requirement of the Public Procurement Act. Another seven benefiting companies lacked experience and expertise concerning the contract they were awarded.
The 2019 and 2020 contracts were awarded in violation of the Cross River State Procurement Law, 2020 (Law No. 9). The law was first enacted in 2007 and reenacted in 2019 by the current administration.
The investigation revealed that government and contractors did not follow due process in awarding the contracts, ghost companies receiving contracts, and flaunting of the Procurement Law among other irregularities.
The six weeks investigation was the subject of discussion on “Let’s Talk Nigeria”, a live radio program that airs on Sparking 92.3 FM Calabar. Analysts and callers said those involved should be called for questioning.
The Country Director of the International Training, Research, and Advocacy Project (INTRAP) Macfarlane Ejah, while featuring as a guest on the programme, appreciated the detailed investigation, stressing that it should not be swept under the carpet.
According to him, “Budgets are peoples’ sensitive activity, you don’t think for the people, you think with the people. If you award a contract and you’re applying for payments you need to quote where that payment is coming from, from the approved budget. Each budget has a sub-head.”
Ejah urged citizens and organizations to hold the governments at all levels accountable.
The CrossRiverWatch reporter who wrote the investigation, Jeremiah Archibong, was called from the studio to substantiate his facts.
On how he concluded that the nine companies are not incorporated with the CAC, he said that a background check with CAC turned negative, and other journalistic methodological processes were followed.
He thanked John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting for their support in carrying out the investigation.
Callers also lent their thoughts on the program and said those found wanting should be brought to book
This report is republished from Cross river watch.