by Sani Tukur,
On Wednesday, we ran a story (http://www.premiumtimesng.com/investigationspecial-reports/221477-special-report-works-minister-fashola-n166-billion-contract-mess.html) on the query the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) sent the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, over the award of 10 road and bridge contracts worth N166 billion.
The BPP said the minister and his ministry violated the laws guiding contract awards in Nigeria in the manner they selected contractors for the projects.
The procurement agency also asked Mr. Fashola to explain, among other things, why the costs of some of the projects were inflated and why some were awarded to unqualified firms.
The construction of the roads and bridges, spread across the country, were appropriated for in the ministry’s 2016 budget.
But hours after the story ran, Mr. Fashola’s spokesperson, Hakeem Bello, circulated a statement saying it was the evaluation committee in his ministry, not him, which committed the procurement blunders identified by the BPP.
He also made other hair splitting claims which sought to trivialise the serious issues of accountability raised in our report.
Given that our first story was a long narrative of the issues raised by the BPP, and given that the minister may have been too busy to comprehend the key issues in that lengthy report, we believe it is necessary to summarise the issues into a few short questions for him to answer.
Mr. Fashola, below are the questions for you.
1) You claimed that it was the Evaluation Committee in your ministry that committed the blunders identified by the BPP and that you should be extricated from blame. But as minister, does every decision taken by the ministry not receive your approval before it is implemented? Does the buck not stop at your table? Did you not approve the report of the Evaluation Committee before it was sent off to the BPP?
- Mr. Minister, why did you refuse to respond to specific issues raised by our report in the press statement circulated on your behalf by your media aide, Hakeem Bello, on Wednesday? Why did you try to trivialize serious issues of accountability and competence raised by the report?
- Does it not worry you, Mr. Minister, that of the 10 first batch projects for which you sought Due Process Certificate of “No Objection”, none was able to scale BPP’s hurdle? That is like scoring zero over 10. What does that say of your leadership of the ministry?
- Mr. Minister, you ran Nigeria’s wealthiest state for eight years. How come you did not know that your ministry should have submitted Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports for the projects for which you sought approval? How come you did not know that EIA was a crucial aspect of project preparation?
- Mr. Minister, can you educate us regarding why your proposed contract cost for the Kano-Zaria Road axis, with a distance of about 160 kilometers, was five times the cost of Kaduna-Zaria Road axis that is about 78 kilometres? Can you also explain why the cost is approximately 2.5 times the cost of Abuja-Kaduna that has about the same distance? Don’t you consider this as an outrageous contract inflation ploy?
- Why did your ministry not know it was supposed to conduct and submit to BPP, Feasibility and Financial/Economic Studies for the projects?
- Mr. Minister, If truly you have since answered the BPP query, why did your spokesperson, Hakeem Bello, fail to disclose this to PREMIUM TIMES when he was contacted for the story? Why did the same Mr. Bello who said he does not speak for the ministry but for you the minister, sign the ministry’s Wednesday statement?
- Mr. Minister, why did you and your ministry turn a blind eye to what the BPP described as bid rigging by two companies- Messrs. Rahama Nigeria Limited and Messrs. F.I.K Global Limited – during the selection of contractors for the construction of Burga-Dull-Mbat II-Tadnum-Gobbiya-Badagari-Gwarangah-Sum Road in Bauchi?
- Mr. Minister, the BPP accused your ministry of providing false and misleading information to it in what appears a desperate move to disqualify some contractors. Why did you allow that to happen?
- Why did your ministry fail in 10 instances to adhere to the nation’s procurement law which demands that jobs be given to lowest bidders who have the financial muscle and technical competence and experience to deliver?