Nigeria: CSOs Urge Full Disclosure Of COVID-19 Procurements In MDAs

— Knock BPP Over Questionable Contract Awards By NPHCDA

Following a recent investigation exposing suspicious award of contracts by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in 2020, the Federal Government has been asked to give a full account of COVID-19 expenditures and procurement’s in all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

It will be recalled that the COVID-19 pandemic had sparked serious emergency procurement’s and contract awards in the MDAs as soon as Corona-virus spread into Nigeria in February 2020, hence, an investigative report published by the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) had revealed that NPHCDA awarded 15 contracts worth about N444 million to a single firm without justification and details. Amos Abba, a reporter at ICIR, led the call during an anti-corruption radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE on RADIO, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, on Wednesday in Abuja.
Abba, while urging that the Federal Government furnishes the public with full details of procurement’s made by all government agencies, emphasized that such action will go a long way to curtail corruption and promote accountability in the public sector.
He Added that corruption derailed Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19 because contracting fraud ate deep into the finances that should have been used to fight the pandemic.
On the suspicious award of contracts by NPHCDA, Abba stated the ICIR found discrepancies in the contracts awarded by the Agency on Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO).
He said, “We spotlighted a red flag, which is then awarded 15 contracts to Marvelous Mike Printing Press; We found out that about N288 million was awarded for flip-charts production.
“We understand that at the height of the pandemic agencies bypassed a competitive bidding process but a contract should have specific details like contract number to identify the contract and trace it but it didn’t have it; It didn’t have specification on the number of flip-charts that were bought and some very obvious details were missing.”
Abba noted that despite other firms meeting the criteria for the same contract award, Marvelous Mike Press who allegedly fell short of those requirements was awarded 15 separate contracts with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) doing little to ensure due process is adhered to.
On his part, the Coordinator at Media Advocacy West Africa Foundation, Audu Liberty Oseni stated that the lack of punishment for individuals, MDAs who breached the law or misappropriated funds is why procurement fraud persists in the public sector.
Oseni, who stressed that President Muhammadu Buhari-led government must lead in the fight against corruption, noted that “so long as people escape punishment for their corrupt deeds Nigeria will not make the needed progress in the fight against corruption.”
On procurement frauds in MDAs, Audu said, “The state must lead the process of anti-corruption, if we allow this kind of impunity, people are not allowed to face the law there is nothing you can do.
“We need to raise active citizens and that will help their consciousness and the required knowledge to demand accountability from leaders.”
Oseni decried NPHCDA’s total disregard of ICIR’s Freedom of Information (FOI) request on the 15 contracts it awarded during the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020 and also faulted BPP for failure to live up to their mandate.
“FOI Act ought to be reviewed to reasonably punish MDAs that refuse to disclose information. “I encourage journalists, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that do an investigation and public accountability, to petition them to the EFCC, if you lay your hands on iron cast evidence,” Oseni advised.

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

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