An investigation carried out by civic organisation, Dataphyte, has exposed the corruption and lack of accountability in a multi-million naira teachers’ quarters project commissioned by the Ebonyi State government.
The Ebonyi State government, in 2018, had budgeted N20million each for the building of teachers’ quarters in about 40 select schools across the state.
The funds were released in 2020 but it’s since been stalled in the six project locations.
In an earlier publication, the Open Contracting Partnership listed abandonment, substandardness as parts of challenges facing Nigeria’s procurement system.
The Education Partnership Centre had listed Ebonyi as low on literacy.
Dataphyte paid a visit to the locations. At Uwana Comprehensive Secondary School, the Teachers Quarters’ project appears clearly abandoned with the existing structure dilapidated.
The principal of the school, Orji Orji, who lamented the abandonment of the building, noted that for many months, no one has come to the project and this is evidenced by the overgrown bushes surrounding the abandoned building.
The investigating team noted that signages which bear the identities of contractors implementing the project and what MDA is sponsoring the project are conspicuously missing from the Uwana quarters project.
At Amasiri where the project award is a little over twenty million naira (N20.11million) as well as at Umunwagwu Comprehensive Junior Secondary School, the projects are non-existent.
Staff members who spoke with the media team said they had no idea that such a project was existing neither were they aware that they were meant to benefit from teachers’ quarters.
A visit to the Oromkomogo Comprehensive Secondary School, showed evidence of the project. However, the two flats with three rooms each do not appear to be worth the twenty million naira allocated to it. The situation is similar at Itim Edda Comprehensive Secondary School and Ameka Comprehensive Secondary school.
With two non-existent projects, at least forty million Naira remains unaccounted for while the state of Uwana means that another twenty million is not fully expended. There is also the challenge to the cost of the structures that have been erected.
According to the report, the investigation shows that against legal provisions, inactive companies and companies not listed on the Corporate Affairs Commission were awarded contracts to build the Teachers’ Quarters.
An inactive company is one that has failed to file financial returns for at least two years and so no company listed as inactive by the Corporate Affairs Commission should have gotten a contract worth N20.108 million awarded in 2018 and released in 2020.
Also, organisations not listed on the Corporate Affairs Commission portal are not eligible for contracts from the government, raising questions on how they were found eligible for the Teachers’ Quarters project without being legal entities.
The Public Procurement Act 2007 states that “a bidder may have its bid or tender excluded if the bidder is in arrears regarding payment of due taxes, charges, pensions or social insurance contributions unless such bidders have obtained a lawful permit in respect to allowance, the deference of such outstanding payments or payment thereof in instalments”
By this provision and the definition of an inactive company, most of the contract beneficiaries that appear on the Ebonyi State Bureau of Public Procurement Open Contracting Portal should have had their bids thrown out and not emerge as contract award recipients.
For instance, Godlinks Nigeria Limited that was listed as the contractor in charge of the abandoned Uwana Comprehensive Secondary school Teachers’ quarter is inactive on CAC.
Another company that got the contract for the Itim Edda School project in Afikpo North is Tunet Engineering Nigeria limited but checks on the CAC portal reveal that the organisation is also listed as inactive. Yet they are part of a project whose money was released in 2020. To have been listed as inactive by CAC they must have been in default for at least 2 years, which means back in 2018 when the contracts were awarded they likely did not have the required documentation to bid.
A company listed inactive must have defaulted in filing its financial returns(Tax) for at least two years. The CAMA 2020 found many companies as defaulting in filing their returns and thus were declared inactive by the Corporate Affairs Commission.
The organisation listed as the one handling the non-existent Umunwagwu School project, Eunipetrose Multipurpose Nigeria Limited, could not be found on the Corporate Affairs Commission Portal, raising questions about how they were listed for a contract. If the company is non-existent, the project is not likely to be executed.
Another organisation listed is Stelys Global Services limited, the organization was listed as one handling Ameka Comprehensive Teachers’ Quarters project but could not be found on the Corporate Affairs Commission portal. The nearest name found was Stely
Rose and Sons Global Services which was incorporated on September 30, 2020, makes it impossible for them to have been awarded a contract that has been awarded since 2018 and money was released for in 2020.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Public and Private Development Centre, Nkem Ilo, who spoke with the investigating team, warned that disruption of public procurement transparency can lead to a breakdown of infrastructure in the country.
“Public procurement is the largest vehicle through which the government, state and federal, meets their constitutional responsibility of providing for the security and welfare of the Nigerian populace. A disruption of that vehicle through corrupt practices often leads to the creation of broken-down infrastructure across the different sectors, especially in the health, education, road and social welfare of the people.”
On ways forward, she opined that more needs to be done in making transparency and accountability take centre stage in contracting.
“With ongoing reforms in contract disclosure through open contracting, a complementary step should follow in actively promoting accountability by leveraging on the role of investigative agencies such as the EFCC and ICPC in prosecuting breaches in the procurement law. Such accountability would go a long way in building public trust in government as well as serve as deterrents” the Procurement and Public Policy expert noted.