N511bn squandered in two years Ex-MD still defiant
NIGERIANS last Tuesday September 13 got to hear one good news out of the many they have been yearning to hear for so long; the dissolution of the Board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). But then the joy might be short lived; National Daily investigation has uncovered attempts by the Presidency to thwart the efforts of the Presidential Committee set up to probe alleged fraud in the NDDC chaired by a former Head of Service, Mr. Steve Orosanye that recommended the dissolution of the board. This is in view of the fact that the man in eye of the storm the ex-Managing Director of the Commission, Mr. Chibuzor Ugwuoha may not be brought to book for all the atrocities he committed while in office.
Sources informed National Daily that before the setting up of the Orosanye-led panel, the Vice-President of the Federation, Alhaji Namadi Sambo had recommended to President Goodluck Jonathan that Ugwuoha should be sacked this was after the Vice President got wind of the high handed manner in which Ugwuoha was managing the commission. But rather than taking to Sambo’s wise counsel President Jonathan decided to set up the Orosanye panel that came up with the same recommendation.
An unfortunately twist though is that, it was Ugwuoha himself that advised that the whole board should be sacked rather than he alone be singled out for removal. Sources told National Daily that the ex-MD never thought that he could be probed going by the fact that some aides of the President were direct beneficiaries of his misconduct.
It is now a common joke in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja that the President has set up another committee to examine the report of the Orosanye panel. Observers of the unfolding drama could only shake their heads in bewilderment, asking themselves what the heck is happening, that a committee has been set up again to review the report of another committee. They felt that the development is against the much touted anti-corruption stance of the present administration.
Moreover, people are of the opinion that the President should be taking affirmative actions going by the challenges his administration is experiencing; majorly that of insecurity and poor governance.
National Daily happened peruse the interim report of the Oronsaye committee and it gathered that the Committee was mandated, among other things, to assess the activities of the Commission with a view to identifying challenges hindering the Commission from performing its statutory function of redressing the peculiar developmental challenges of the Niger Delta, which is linked to the environmental and ecological devastation of the region due to oil exploration and exploitation activities.
The major aim of the Committee was to come up with recommendations that will enable the Government chart a way forward for the Commission, which was established as an interventionist agency to address the frustrations due to the lack of development and loss of livelihood of the peoples of the oil-producing areas.
The Committee observed that the age-old problems of the Commission derive from a complex mix of factors include among others: Ambiguities in the enabling Act; Non-compliance with extant Regulations and Statutes; Acrimonious and poor interpersonal relationship between the Board, the Managing Director, the Executive Directors and among top Management Staff of the Commission; Structural defects and over-centralisation of the Commission’s activities; Widespread misconception of the role of the Commission by staff and people of the region; Ethnicity and factionalisation; Routine and Rampant externalization of internal problem and disagreements; Ineffective Supervision by the supervisory agencies of the Commission; and Inadequate funding and staffing of the State Offices.
During the probe, the committee was able to among other things take, assess and evaluate a sample inventory of some NDDC projects awarded since June 2007; Evaluate the contractors’ prequalification process in the Commission; Evaluate the roles and relationship of the Board, Management and Staff of the Commission; Evaluate the procurement practices of the Commission and its compliance to the letters and spirit of the Public Procurement Act; Evaluate the institutionalization of the orientation of all personnel of the Commission at all levels, in order to inform and manage expectations; Evaluate funds management of the Commission; Evaluate all other variables (including checks and balances action) that can be improved upon so as to strengthen the Commission in the future; and Evaluate compliance or otherwise with the Public Service Rules and Extant Civil service Rules and Regulations.
Rot in NDDC
The committee found out after assessing, evaluating files and interacting with the staff tasked with the procurement process of the NDDC, that a total of 1,138 (one Thousand, One Hundred and Thirty-Eight)projects were said to have been awarded from 2007 to date worth N510,872,784,496.52. The summary of the status of the projects are that: Mobilization fees worth N51, 449,545,592.12 had been paid for 22 projects awarded over a year ago and the contractors were yet to mobilize to site; all the seven (7) stalled projects were awarded more than two years ago; Going by reports received from most stakeholders, the Committee noted that the quality of work on NDDC projects is generally very poor. This, in the opinion of the Committee, may be as a result of the lack of pre-qualification and competition in the procurement process; From the testimony of the ED (P), the Committee found that the consultancy for the preliminary studies of the East-West coastal road, from Lagos to Calabar was awarded to Pearl Consultants for a contract sum of N300 million in the first instance in 2007; In addition, it was discovered that on completion of the first phase, the consultant was paid the sum of N4.228 billion in 2010 as advance to commence the second phase of the design without following due process of obtaining BPP’s Ã¢â‚¬Å“Certificate of no objectionÃ¢â‚¬Â and approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC). The MD and the ED(P) explained that the letter commissioning Pearl Consultants was all-inclusive and was intended to facilitate their movement to the next phase of the project design; The Committee noted that payment was made in spite of the fact that the Head of the Internal Audit duly advised the NDDC MD, in writing, that for a job of this magnitude a Ã¢â‚¬Å“Certificate of No ObjectionÃ¢â‚¬Â from the BPP and a proper agreement shall be part of the supporting documents to process payment; and There are substantial evidence of project duplication. For instance, the Committee discovered four (4) such projects through the document submitted by the Edo State Coordinator that were eventually redirected to other needy communities.
Zero procurement procedure
The Committee also observed that, contrary to the provisions of Section 16 (6-9) and 23 of the Public Procurement Act (PPA), 2007, pre-qualification processes were not carried out for projects within the N250 Million approval threshold of the Commission. This is evidenced in the Invitation to Tender for Projects, which do not specify the prequalification criteria and a sample copy of the Tender Evaluation Report (TER), which reflects only financial bids.
Technical Qualifications of bidders were not considered necessary for projects that fall within the approval threshold of the commission. The testimony of the Head of Procurement indicated that that Commission’s understanding of the Circular issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation on Approved Revised Threshold means that prequalification is not required for works below N300 million. This is clearly a misrepresentation of the intention of the Circular, which simply aims at reducing the time involved in the procurement process. Consequently, procuring entities were advised to use the 3-envelope Straight Financial Tender where Technical and Financial bids are submitted in two separate sealed envelopes and both put into a third envelope.
In addition, the Committee observed that the Commission’s procurement Unit was created in 2010. The Committee’s interactions with officers in the Procurement unit revealed that the officers clearly did not comply with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007. Indeed, the Acting Head of the Unit confirmed to the Committee that he and the staff of the Unit had not been trained on the procurement processes.
Following from its findings, the Committee believes that the recommendations listed hereunder would assist government in taking appropriate actions on the various issues raised in the report: The present Board of the NDDC should be suspended/disengaged to make room for the restructuring of the Commission; The present Top Management of the Commission comprising the Managing Director and the two (2) Executive Directors should be disengaged; An Interim Management Committee of not more than three (3) persons should be appointed, subject to the extant Law, to coordinate and oversee the restructuring of the Commission.
It was in furtherance of these submissions that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim conveyed the decision of President Goodluck Jonathan to dissolve the board in a terse press statement.According to Anyim, the President has also directed the Managing Director and other members of the Executive of the Commission to hand over all the commission’s property in their possession to the Director of Administration and Human Resources, Mrs. Osaro Areyenka with immediate effect.
The statement read as follows: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Following the conclusion of the assignment of the Presidential Committee to look into the problems facing the NDDC and subsequent submission of the report of the Committee, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR, after due consideration of the report has approved the dissolution of the Board of NDDC with effect from today 13th September, 2011. A new Board for the Commission, Anyim stated, would be reconstituted soon.
Unrelenting, Ugwuoha has been going around trying to change the story. According to him there is no fraud involved in the movement of the Commission’s $20 million from Union Bank to First Bank.
The ex-NDDC boss explained that he acted in the Commission’s best interest and that the money is still intact in the Commission’s First Bank overseas account. Ugwuoha had further stated that not only is the money intact, the Niger Delta region has benefited from the lodgment with First Bank.
The report also recommended that Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) be invited to investigate alleged fraud in the Commission.