Osun State Government has been urged to probe the alleged award of contracts worth N1.3 billion to non-existent companies between 2019 and 2021.
This follows a recent investigative report by the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), which indicted the state government of flouting public procurement laws by awarding projects to firms not registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, (CAC) or existing anywhere in Nigeria.
Investigative journalist with ICIR, Taiwo Fatola, led the call for Governor Ademola Adeleke-led Osun government to open enquiry on procurement irregularities in the state during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.
According to Fatola, nine projects were awarded to non-existent firms, and the state got involved in contract splitting between 2019 and 2021, which was during the administration of the immediate past governor of the state, Gboyega Oyetola.
He called on the current Osun government led by Sen. Adeleke to swing into action without further delay while urging citizens to show more interest in public procurement processes and hold leaders to account.
“I urge the government (Osun) to do something about this report and ensure that procurement laws are strictly adhered to going forward to encourage transparency and accountability of procurement processes.
“Citizens need to be more conscious, interested and ask questions in public procurement as that will help keep the government on their toes.
“When government officials know the citizens are asking questions, they will be pushed to do what is right. People should show more optimism and follow up on public procurement processes,” Fatola stressed.
The investigative journalist further revealed that former Governor Oyetola has yet to make any comment about the report since it was made public, adding that the Osun State Bureau of Public Procurement and the governor’s office are both yet to take any known action against the development.
Reacting to the investigation, Community Engagement Manager at Connected Development (CODE), Mukhtar Modibbo, condemned the violation of procurement law in Osun State and emphasized that it stems from the flagrant abuse and disregard for Freedom of Information (FOI) requests by government institutions in the state.
While calling for all hands to be on deck against flouting of procurement law in Nigeria, Modibbo noted that stringent punishment would deter others from indulging in procurement corruption, adding that procurement fraud was not only happening in Osun State but across the federation.
“We have a bigger framework, that is the Open Government Partnership. How effective do we look at procurements, issues of ownership, and service delivery within the framework of open government partnership?
“The punishments, to some extent, are not really there. Cases like that will stay in court for years. We have to strengthen a lot of systems for us to achieve those things. How strong is our judiciary? What is the time frame? What is the framework of that? Some will stay up to 3-5 years on a case. At the end of the day, the case will not even come with serious punishment,” Modibbo stated.
On her part, the Editor of ICIR, Victoria Bamas, joined calls for the Osun government to probe the award of projects to non-existent companies and lamented that “while civil society organizations make painstaking efforts to expose corruption in the system, government agencies frustrate their efforts.”
Bamas noted that without stringent punishment for procurement corruption, people will not be deterred from going into the act.
Speaking on a report indicting the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) of poor response to Freedom of Information requests on abandoned projects in Nigeria’s capital, Bamas urged the FCTA to “actually see civil society organizations as partners in the progress and not enemies.”
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program PRIMORG uses to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.