The crises of our procurement regime are enormous By Mohammed Bougei Attah



….Your invitation here to day is informed by event of the last few days in the country. First it was the statement of the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan during a PDP rally in Calabar, Cross River state, where he informed Nigerians that the palliatives promised Nigerians as proceeds from the oil subsidy removal are no longer realistic.

Second, we read the interview granted to the TELL Magazine Editors of last week where the President was quoted as saying he invited the World Bank Team into his government to vet contracts before further approvals by the Federal Executive Council (FEC). We will not comment on this at this juncture because the World Bank team in Nigeria has since distanced themselves from the statement

And thirdly, we read in the Guardian of Sunday February 26, the official position of the President as conveyed to us by his Senior Special Assistance on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati titled ‘Why Launch of Procurement Council is Delayed’ and said the reason why the President has failed to constitute and inaugurate the National Council on Public Procurement (NCPP) is because there are contradictions in the Public Procurement Act (PPA) 2007. We have since addressed this issue in a rejoinder published in several newspapers and online media.

Only yesterday, the Senate in their Plenary Session lends their voice to the call for the inauguration of the Council by mandating the President to constitute the Council as well as the Bureau of Public procurement in line with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act. The Senate resolution came after the House of Representatives passed similar motion on September 28 last year.

There is no doubt that all the above are coming on the heel of a recent article titled “Effective Public Procurement as Panacea to National Development” published in the Guardian of Sunday January 29. Considering that we have the responsibility to monitor events and correct the anomalies, PRADIN also reacted via another statement made available to the Guardian Editors as part of the lead story in the February 26 edition captioned: The Jonathan Government is Not Addressing Issues on page 57.

Given that the inauguration of the Council is the most potent tool in addressing the Subsidy Reinvestment Program (SURE-P) palaver as well as the President’s proposal to invite the World Bank team into Nigeria, your presence here cannot be more appropriate than now that all sectors of the country are agitating for this new procurement regime.

Therefore, our intention to invite all of you here, particularly the proposed members of the NCPP as contained in Part 1, Section 1 (1) of the PPA is to provide the platform to discuss the dangers of President’s failure to inaugurate the Council, the need to see the struggle as a combined one as well as being stakeholders in the phenomenon. Let me therefore use this opportunity in urging you to join forces with civil society organizations (CSOs) on this issue as it will go a long way in supporting our efforts over the years, to enthrone a pro-people development agenda.

Since June 2007 when the Act was signed into law along side others as anti-corruption strategies, the efforts to ensure the provisions are implemented have met with stiff oppositions and at times outright rejection by those in authority. Some elements (you call them cabals) within the Presidency were so desperate to get one of the part-time members out and take control that they faked a representative for the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management of Nigeria (CIPSMN) during the planned ceremony for the swearing-in of the Council members in September 2008. Am glad that a representative of the Institute is here today that can bear witness to this fact.

When the above attempt failed, the same group of people advised the late President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to introduce an amendment to the Act that will make politicians rather than technocrats as chairman of the Council among several other anti-people provisions which we also resisted with superior and professional arguments. The Bill even aided the members of the then National Assembly to introduce their version that will render the Act toothless.

From President Olusegun Obasanjo that introduced the Due Process regime and brought the World Bank Team to conduct the 2000 Country Procurement Assessment Report (CPAR) to President Yar’Adua and now President Jonathan that have been part of these three regimes, the story remains the same.

At this juncture, permit me to avail you of a brief about the importance of procurement in the economic policy of any nation that our leaders have deliberately or ignorantly ignored to the detriment of our people. Research has shown that without transformation in public procurement, budget implementation results will continue to remain poor, thus no organization or country can survive in the absence of efficient flow of materials, supplies and services to support their activities. This perhaps underscores why the President chose to ‘transform’ and not to ‘turn around’ Nigerian operations. Therefore for the present administration to get value for money in public procurement as a tool for good governance and to improve the life of ordinary Nigerians, the President will need the urgent advice and action from your offices individually and collectively in the determination and resolution of the following lingering issues concerning Public Procurement in Nigeria.

While the Ministry of Finance is responsible for our fiscal policies, the CBN is responsible for the monetary policies and the National Council on Public Procurement has the responsibility for the policy on procurement. These are the three (3) major pillars that ought to guide our economy and have been for most of advanced nations.

 

The bulk of corrupt practices in Nigeria today are linked to public procurement, which accounts for over 60% of government daily activities (see August 2009 CSO Report on Public Procurement Process in Nigeria). The continuous low rating of Nigeria by Transparency International (TI) and other international anti-corruption organizations, among the most corrupt nations of the world is also located within the ambit of weak governance embedded in a weak public procurement system that has blighted the development of many parts of Africa to date.

A critical review of the above issues of misprocurement have their links to lack of political will on the part of our leaders to fight corruption and commitment themselves to transparency. Another factor is the absence of adequate capacity to effective drive the process. And this leads us to the role of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) in the whole ugly episodes.

Indeed Nigerians are awareness without any reminder that the BPP as currently constituted is not only illegal but in a sorry state. The Director General and other principal staff were not appointed in line with Sections 7 (1), 7 (2) (c) of the Public Procurement Act and Section 11(9) of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management Act 2007. It is also a know fact that none of the principal staff is a certified purchasing and supply managers according to the laws of Nigeria. To demonstrate their lack of capacity, BPP is seen every other day at the National Assembly, always in the witness box involved with procurement cases rather than be an umpire over contract dispute. It is evident that they are often more indicted in many procurement cases than the MDAs. After four years of the establishment of the Bureau, it is on record they have failed to submit to the National Assembly the statutory bi-annually Procurement Audit Report (PAR) as required in Section 5 (p) of the PPA.

By the resolutions of the House of Representatives on September 28, 2011 and that of the Senate yesterday mandating the President to dissolve the Bureau administration and inaugurate the Council is evident of the fact that the BPP is more of a problem than solution to the present corruption in procurement process of Nigeria. Again, the President added his voice recently in the TELL interview mentioned earlier that he is aware of several complaints from several quarters and contract inflations and mismanagement. Wrongly though, this is perhaps what informed the President’s decision with a proposal to invite the World Bank.

Another area of concern to many Nigerians is the case of our teeming youths that graduated from various institutions of higher learning in the field of purchasing and supply management. Both graduates and undergraduates are at the mercy of public office holders as they are denied their rightful place in the public service. As disservice to our fatherland and unpatriotic act, the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation is yet to incorporate the academic qualifications of CIPSM Nigeria and remove the CIPS United Kingdom (UK) in the scheme of service, four years after the Act was signed into law. It is even more disturbing and damaging that the BPP is also engaging Consultants to carry out assignment with CIPS UK certification.

As a result of these glaring abuses and violation of our extant laws by those in power at the Federal level, some states have also adopted similar postures. States now pass procurement laws with so much power to the executives without recourse to the plight of the people. The article on page 18 of The Tribune of Tuesday February 28 shows how insensitive some of our leaders are when we read the story on how the Oyo State House of Assembly plans to set aside the public procurement law of the state. We have similar cases in some states passing anti-people provisions in their laws.

Ladies and gentlemen, the crises of our procurement regime are enormous. Though we need prayers, we do need more action now than ever before to help the present administration in fulfilling their Transformation Agenda. To achieve this, we must put our hands and voices together in urging the President to constitute and inaugurate the national Council on Public Procurement. This is the answer to our long history of corruption.

Being Excerpts From The remarks By Mohammed Bougei Attah, National Coordinator, Procurement Observation And Advocacy Initiative At A One-Day Roundtable On The Imperatives Of Sure-P And Public Procurement Process In Nigeria

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