In Ekiti, Citizens are learning to hold govt accountable through Open Contracting Reporting— 5mins read
Sub: The open contracting model allows Ekiti state citizens and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to monitor government projects
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AJAYI Omotayo, the headteacher of St Benedict’s Nursery and Primary School Ayede Ekiti, was bewildered when the construction work on the perimeter fence around the school stopped abruptly.
At a time attacks on schools and abduction for ransom by terrorists are rising, Omotayo had every reason to be worried because Ekiti State, Southwest Nigeria, has also become a hot-spot for kidnapping.
More than 600 students have been abducted from schools in Northwest Nigeria since Dec. 2020, a BBC report highlighting a worrying development in the country’s kidnap-for-ransom crisis.
In 2020, the Ekiti State government had initiated a project to construct perimeter fences around public schools in the state, including St Benedict’s, as parts of measures to fortify schools against attacks and abduction.
Checks on Ekiti Procurement Portal revealed that in Nov. 2020, the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) awarded contracts to various contractors to implement the safe school project. One of the contractors, BHISG Infrastructure Company, limited, was awarded the perimeter fence of St Benedict’s Nursery and Primary School.
After mobilising to the site, the project was stopped, and the contractor left due to the non-supply of some of the materials, like irons and red bricks, needed for its completion. It was not clear if the state government was aware until after a group of independent procurement monitors discovered that the project was stalled by a lack of supplies of key materials.
“We reached out to the contractor and extracted a commitment from him to return to the site,” says Odeyemi Dotun, one of the monitors whose organisation, Center for Social Reconditioning and Development (CEFSORD), like several other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Ekiti state, is committed to open contracting in the state.
Dotun said his organisation was inclined towards completing the project because of “its significance to the safety and security of the pupils and teachers who are the direct beneficiaries.”
“Due to this advocacy, the contractor returned to the site, completed, and delivered the project in January 2021. The school environment is now safer from what it used to be with the building of the fence and the school gate, which serves as a shield against invaders,” the CEFSORD team lead said.
Convergence of CSOs for good governance
In 2018, the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), a citizen sector organisation focusing on open contracting through procurement and contract monitoring activities in Nigeria, trained members of civil society organisations, professional bodies, and media practitioners on open contracting using the Freedom of Information as a tool for sourcing data. This was with the support from the MacArthur Foundation.
By the end of 2020, PPDC had at least 10 state governments in Nigeria signed up to its Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS) and currently leads the charge in demanding its full implementation in states.
The Open Contracting Data Standards (OCDS) makes it easy for citizens, including those in civil society organisations, to monitor the award of contracts and their implementation.
Ekiti State currently has an open contracting portal where according to Dotun, information on the award of the perimeter fence project at St Benedict’s Nursery and Primary School was extracted. The state’s Bureau of Public Procurement also makes procurement information available on its Facebook page, enhancing public trust and confidence in how contracts are awarded.
Like Dotun, Kayode Teslim and Wahab Adeniyi, who are also procurement monitors, have taken advantage of the procurement portal in Ekiti State to monitor the progress of some projects.
In Oct. 2020, the duo of Teslim and Adeniyi of the Foundation for Sustainable Health Promotion and Development (FOSHPAD) went on a project monitoring at Ansar-Ud-deen (AUD) Comprehensive High School, Ado Ekiti.
They were on the trail of a contract awarded to reconstruct a block of classrooms in the school at the sum of N11, 343,321.00 to Bisteam Golden International Limited in 2018. Teslim, who led the team, told HumAngle that the contract details were extracted from Ekiti Open Contracting Portal.
The monitors, he explains, help to bridge the gap between the government, the contractors, and the people who the projects are meant to serve.
“During the monitoring exercise, we confirmed the completion of the project, which is currently in use by Junior Secondary School (JSS) students,” he said.
But the school has more infrastructural challenges, according to findings by their group.
Students who have been receiving lectures under dilapidated structures shared their grievances with the monitors. Despite the newly completed classroom block, the 40-year-old school is over-populated; close to 2000 students are in the school.
*Olorunsola A.T, a resident and a parent of one of the students in the school, attested that AUD Comprehensive High School is one of the most populated secondary schools in Ekiti State.
“The team visited the classroom blocks being used by JSS 2 students; on getting to the classrooms, we discovered that these classrooms were in a deplorable state; they were unsafe and unsuitable for learning as they had no ceiling, windows, and doors,” the team lead revealed.
“Adjacent to this block of classrooms is an entire classroom block that has been abandoned as the entire roof has been blown off.”
Apparently, the students were not happy with the learning environment. “We are learning in an open roof classroom, directly under the sun, and the rain has spoiled some of our books inside the desk,” one of the students, Ademola Ogunlade, was quoted as saying.
Open contracting: the place of the people
Open contracting is about “publishing and using open, accessible and timely information on public contracting to engage citizens and businesses to fix problems and deliver results,” Open Contracting Partnership, a Washington DC-based organisation, says.
This was the kind of opportunity Olowolayemo Lawrence of Inspiration Care and Development Center (ICDC) says he was always looking forward to. Lawrence was once worried about infrastructure and the absence of essential ones at the Igirigiri community in Ado Ekiti.
Igirigiri is one of the farm settlements in the capital city, Ado-Ekiti. His first visit to the farm settlement was in 2018, when he was an election observer.
According to him, the story of the Igirigiri community is one of the success stories recorded after the open contract initiative was launched.
“After attending a series of training conducted by PPDC, and selected to participate in the monitoring exercises, I saw this as a real opportunity to advocate for this community and ensure the government takes a serious step in tackling some of the issues identified,” Lawrence recalls his second journey to the community with no government’s presence.
“My first focus was on the only primary school on the farm. I believe that most of the young people in the rural areas lack access to good education, which is the bedrock for building a successful future.”
He said the visitation to the community with other monitors opened a window of opportunity to engage the state government on the people’s plights. Soon after the ease of the lockdown in 2020, they arrived at the community.
“We saw the need to engage with the government on this issue for the first time immediately after the first phase of the lockdown in 2020 when we visited the community to identify some of their urgent needs.”
“With just a constructive tweet to the state governor @Kfayemi and the DG Bureau of Public Procurement in Ekiti state @egghead to state the dilapidated conditions of the School, this generated some reactions from the @egghead and the chairman of Ado Local Government. This was also followed up with Advocacy visits to all the relevant stakeholders,” Lawrence wrote.
This seems to be what the government was waiting for. The advocacy paid off, and the classroom was reconstructed. Another project was awarded.
“The government promised to take proactive steps to contract the project and ensure completion in due time,” he said, adding, “with our efforts, we have now confirmed that the abandoned block of the classroom had been completed and a sum of N10,804,838.35 has been approved for the construction of a new three classrooms with an office at Igirigiri.”
“We are currently monitoring this process to ensure that proper work is delivered by the contractor handling the project.”
E-library project reactivated
Construction work at the foundation level
During his first administration in the state, Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti state governor, had established Ekiti State College of Agriculture and Technology, Isan-Ekiti, in 2014, focusing on middle-level workforce development in the agricultural sector.
The college suffered a setback after Fayemi’s first term lapsed. However, the governor has, since his return to power has reactivated the project, and one of those given priority attention is the e-Library complex.
Open data obtained from the government portal says the project was awarded to Kouris Construction Nig LTD at N131,196,167, Oluwabukola Adekunle of Life And Peace Development Organisation (LAPDO) says.
When completed, the state government envisages that the project would serve as a heritage for the next generation −a reservoir for the storage of facts. However, after two visits in August and October 2020, work had stopped, and the project was still at the trench level.
LAPDO sent a Freedom of Information request to the Ekiti State Ministry of Education, Science & Technology demanding why the project was suspended, Adekunle revealed.
“The team, in turn, paid advocacy to the State Ministry of Education, Science & Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sustainability also had several engagements with Directors, HOD amongst others,” he said.
“It is worthy to note that construction has resumed on the site, and we are currently monitoring the process to ensure that the complex is completed successfully.”
The open contracting model allows Ekiti State citizens and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to monitor government projects.