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Promoting Good Governance.

FRSC, NSCDC, other federal agencies  inflate prices of face-masks, liquid soap in COVID-19 projects

By Aderemi OJEKUNLE


THE Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), an agency of the federal government, has spent N5,600 per unit of hand sanitiser (500ml) in a procurement deal worth ₦5.6 million. This is one of the many cases of inflated contracts awarded in respect of COVID-19 projects in Nigeria. 

These spendings with other daily payments were fraught with incomplete descriptions and vague transactions, analysis by Dataphyte has shown.

The data mined from the Open Treasury Portal (OTP) from March 1st to June 27th, 2020, shows 84 line items with COVID-19 expenses by the five federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAS). The MDAs are the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), and the Federal Ministry of Health.

Mr. Austin Chimezie, the owner of one of the big pharmaceutical stores along Oshodi-Isolo expressway, exclaimed at the price of a 500ml hand sanitiser for N5,600. According to him, even at peak period, the cost of a 500ml hand sanitiser is N3000. “We sell the bulk of that particular hand sanitiser for N12,000 a carton, usually 12 pieces per carton.

“I don’t know how someone will buy hand sanitiser for N5,600 per unit. It is extremely high. When you are buying in bulk, you even get it for a cheaper price because it is wholesale. We supply to companies too, and we know how much we sell in bulk.”

Corroborating Mr. Chimezie’s claim, a pharmacist at Dr. Rita’s Pharmacy & Superstore in Lekki, Lagos, Mr. Olusola Olarinto said no customer would buy a locally-made hand sanitiser for N5,600, especially when the bottle is 500ml. “We have some expensive hand sanitisers around here for N5,000, but they are 1 litre and above.

Federal Road Safety Corps Marshall, Boboye Oyeyemi and 2nd substantive Commandant of NSCDC, Abdullahi Gana Mohammadu.

According to the portal, the five federal bureaucracies spent ₦1.69 billion ($4.7 million at N360/US1) on COVID-19 in the last three months. The process marred the essence of the government’s new treasury transparency initiative.

Also, half of the total expenditure went to individuals for various procurement and services. These actions by MDAs and the office of the Accountant General negate President Muhammadu Buhari’s munch-vaunted anti-corruption and transparency mantra. The sanctioning process is weak and bureaucratic in nature, the details of payments for COVID-19 related expenses by the MDAs on the Open Treasury Portal (OTP) have shown.

The OTP was launched by the FG to ensure open transparency in government spendings. The portal mandates all MDAs to publish transactions above ₦5 million. But since the launch in December 2019, MDAs and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) continue to frustrate the essence of the platform with nebulous transaction details and inadequate description of payment.

Breakdown of the ₦1.69 Billion COVID19 Payments

Dataphyte analysis of the payments showed that the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) incurred ₦1.36 billion out of the total figure. It represented 80 per cent of the total amount incurred by the five MDAs within the months under review.  The NCDC spent ₦42.16 million, NSCDC spent ₦170.7 million, Ministry of Health spent ₦86.63 million, while FRSC spent ₦32.26 million.

No. MDAs Amount (N’ million)
1 National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) 1.360.7
2 Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) 42.16
3 Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) 170.7
4 Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) 32.26
5 Federal Ministry of Health 86.63

Some of the Nebulous Transactions

Checks by Dataphyte showed that most of the transactions have no record, while the descriptions of others are vague. Other red flags in the payments include bloated contract sums, procurement, and services rendered by individuals and companies.

For instance, the NPHCDA spent ₦39.33 million for the supply of face masks (Supply & Delivery of Face Mask for LGA Training participants. Delivery at NSCS, Abuja). The line item did not state the number of face masks bought and the cost per mask. A simple calculation showed ₦39.33 million should have taken care of 78,666 people at  ₦500 per face mask.

Another controversial line item for the agency is the payment for the monitoring and supervision of COVID-19 commodities across Northwest and Southwest at ₦33.23 million. The Northcentral and Northeast zones gulped the same amount. These payments were made to individuals.

Despite several attempts by this reporter to get details of the individuals from NPHCDA proved abortive. The spokesperson of the Agency directed the reporter to the Procurement Head.

“We are heading to the National Assembly to defend the mandate establishing the NPHCDA now. “When Oga (Executive Director) is done I will get in touch with you to give you an update on the question,” the procurement head, Mr Soji Taiwo, said on the phone.

Later, Mr Taiwo declined to comment on the reporter’s enquiries, but suggested a “collaborative relationship.”

Further analysis by Dataphyte showed that the agency paid the sum of ₦807.54 million to various individuals for the procurement of COVID-19 materials, training of LG staff, among others. The figure represents 55 per cent of the total amount expended by the NPHCDA on COVID-19 between March and June 2020.

The NPHCDA is not alone. The Federal Ministry of Health also paid the sum of ₦15 million and ₦71 million respectively to private individuals without adequate description.

The first payment was for a Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) Airticket, local running, and Airport taxi to embark on a full-scale simulation exercise on COVID-19 for staff at Port Health Services (PHS) in five states (Enugu, Ikeja, Rivers, Kano, and Abuja).

The other payment was made to Bulama, Mr Sadiq Abubakar for the “payment for transfer in respect of Coronavirus Emergency Response (Port Health Control).”

Other outrageous and incomplete items were the payment of ₦35.30 million for the supply of Face Mask, ₦15 million for the supply of Liquid Soup at the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) headquarters in Abuja.

01/06/2020 1000682737-3 124004001 NIGERIA SECURITY AND CIVIL DEFENCE CORPS T.A. ABARIS NIGERIA LTD 35,304,540.43 SUPPLY OF FACE MASK TO NHQ
02/06/2020 1000682820-4 124004001 NIGERIA SECURITY AND CIVIL DEFENCE CORPS AKAKAA GLOBAL SERVICES LIMITED 26,257,751.93 SUPPLY OF ANTISEPTIC SOLUTION TO NHQ
02/06/2020 1000682820-6 124004001 NIGERIA SECURITY AND CIVIL DEFENCE CORPS BM GOLD LTD 15,887,043.19 SUPPLY OF LIQUID SOAP TO NHQ
04/06/2020 1000683854-9 124004001 NIGERIA SECURITY AND CIVIL DEFENCE CORPS GRACIOUS RUBY CONCEPT NIGERIA LIMITED 42,365,448.51 SUPPLY OF HAND SANITIZER TO NH

Also, ₦26.26 million paid to a contractor for the supply of ‘Antiseptic Solution’ to the same headquarters.

MDAs React

Mr. Bisi Kazeem, the spokesperson of the FRSC, said all payments were done in line with the BPP guidelines. “We are thorough about procurement at FRSC, if company papers are not complete, we don’t do business with such a contractor.”

When this reporter asked about the procurement of hand sanitisers at inflated amounts, he sent pictures of the size and product for confirmation.

The same product – Archy’s hand sanitiser disinfectant – costs N2,500 per unit on Jumia, according to checks by Dataphyte.

The officials at the Ministry of Health declined to comment. A focal person at the Procurement desk said he could not comment on the COVID-19 procurement details.

“I am unable to attend to this inquiry. As you are aware, as a civil servant, I cannot engage the Press without authorisation from Hon. Minister of Health or Minister of State for Health, Federal Ministry of Health,” he said.

Olujimi Oyetomi, the Director of Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Health, who facilitated the discussion, said the Ministry can only attend to such inquiries if the matter is brought to the attention of the Minister and Minister of State for Health.

Shola Odumosu, the deputy spokesperson of the NSCDC, asked the reporter to send a request by email. Since then, he has not replied to reminders sent to him.

How MDAs Are Using OTP To Frustrate Nigeria’s Open Government

The Open Treasury Portal has not achieved the main aim of its establishment. More than six months after launching, MDAs have found a means to frustrate its usefulness. They released bogus figures, incomplete item descriptions in a way to outsmart the open governance initiative.

Also, it is challenging for stakeholders to check abuse of procurement, sharp practices, and corruption.

The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) is not helping Nigerians and the government at ensuring proper description for all payments in compliance with the transparency policy. Instead of rejecting items without adequate information, it seems the office publishes without sanctioning erring MDAs.

For instance, ₦346.2 million was paid by the NCDC without any description and it passed through the Office of the Accountant General without any red flags. The same items placed on the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) of the Bureau of Public Procurement have descriptions.

Ms. Ifeoma Onyebuchi, the Program Director, PPDC decried this act of oblivion. She queried that “given that MDAs can adhere strictly to the BPP guidelines on the submission of procurement items, why not on the Open Treasury Portal?” She called on the Office of the Accountant General to promptly correct this problem to ensure public accountability and transparency for all Nigerians.

Line items for the NCDC without description

Date

Payment No

Payer Code

Organisation Name

Beneficiary Name

Amount

Description

18/04/2020

1000673688-1

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

KAURA MOTORS NIG. LTD.

35,017,857.14

18/04/2020

1000673688-4

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

INKIYA NIGERIA LIMITED

18,940,476.19

18/04/2020

1000673688-2

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

VANTAGE WOODS LIMITED

9,648,675.00

15/03/2020

1000667770-1

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

FINLAB NIGERIA LIMITED

18,972,664.91

15/03/2020

1000667770-11

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

BIOSAFE EQUIPMENT CALIBRATIONS LIMITED

18,552,588.00

15/03/2020

1000667770-9

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

FUTURE CONCERN NIGERIA LIMITED

14,981,500.00

15/03/2020

1000667770-3

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

LAYER 3 LIMITED

14,009,719.26

08/04/2020

1000672954-7

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

KAURA MOTORS NIG. LTD.

43,607,142.86

08/04/2020

1000672954-1

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

KAURA MOTORS NIG. LTD.

42,946,428.57

08/04/2020

1000672954-2

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

INKIYA NIGERIA LIMITED

24,461,384.85

30/04/2020

1000676883-1

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

FINLAB NIGERIA LIMITED

30,229,000.00

30/04/2020

1000676883-3

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

PRUDENTIAL ZENITH LIFE INSURANCE LIMITED

15,643,694.27

30/04/2020

1000676884-2

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

SAVVY GLOBAL SERVICES LIMITED

6,856,452.38

04/04/2020

1000672626-1

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

AXAKA LTD

33,116,620.00

04/04/2020

1000672625-10

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

EMMY SOLID DIGITAL COMPUTERS LIMITED

7,260,081.80

04/04/2020

1000672619-6

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

AO DAVE INTEGRATED CONSULTANTS LTD

6,115,704.51

04/04/2020

1000672625-7

521027047

NIGERIA CENTRE FOR DISEASE CONTROL ABUJA

TOTAL SECURE NIGERIA LIMITED

5,842,500.00

In a recent newspaper publication, the Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris, said, “it is the responsibility of MDAs to give clear and unambiguous descriptions of payments” uploaded by his office on the Open Treasury Portal. The response clearly shows Mr. Idris is aware of how MDAs frustrate the country’s open government initiative.

The response of the OAGF cuts short of its mandates to coordinate all information on the portal. The guidelines also empower the OAGF to ensure compliance, enforcement, monitoring, reporting, and recommendation of sanctions for non-compliance.

The OTP Financial Transparency Policy & Implementation Guidelines also clearly states that MDAs should fill report parameters such as payment number, payer code, agency, beneficiary names, amount, and description. These are the responsibility of the AOGF, and it must enforce it.

Stakeholders and public policy analysts have also decried the manners at which MDAs and Accountant General run the open treasury portal. If the inadequacies continue, the efforts of President Buhari on Financial Transparency will only be a shadow of itself.

Segun Elemo, Executive Director of Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), a civil society group, had called on the Nigerian authorities to track and audit public funding during COVID-19.

“The auditor-general must ensure there is an ongoing audit of all emergency spending. The ICPC should also step in. They should not wait for a year to start auditing; they must do a real-time audit of every expenditure, particularly COVID-19-related responses.”

This report was originally published by DATAPHYTE.

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