COVID-19 emergency procurement worth N534.98 million were awarded to unverifiable contractors, according to investigation by Dataphyte, an online platform which collates and curates data from diverse sources and transform them into machine-readable formats.
These contracts were awarded by five ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). They are ministry of environment, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH), and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
A total of 71 projects valued at N1.99 billion were awarded to more than 50 contractors during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to documents published on the website of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). About 19 contractors who were awarded projects worth N451.18 million have no records on the BPP’s federal contractors’ database. Five others did not comply with the full requirements of the BPP.
A laboratory where samples are being screened.
In April, the federal government raised N697.54 million from donations made to the fight against COVID-19. The data, published on the open treasury portal of the office of accountant-general of the federation, contains daily donations from April 7 to April 30, 2020, but there is record for spending.
BIG SUPPLIERS BY CONTRACT SUM
Breakdown of the contracts awarded by the MDAs are:
- Ministry of environment N489.14 million
- NPHCDA N587.22 million
- NCDC N663.58 million
- OAUTH N2.72 million
- NSCDC N250 million.
This covers the COVID-19 expenses up till June 25, 2020, when the data were mined.
Further analysis of the data showed that NCDC awarded a N98 million contract to Messrs Masfas International Limited for the supply of Chlorines Based Chemicals and Outdoor Application at its Lagos centre, while Messrs Design got a contract worth N97.6 million for the supply of the same products to the Abuja centre of NCDC.
The ministry of environment awarded N53.9 million and N49.8 million for consultancy services on capacity development of environmental health emergency response management on personal protective equipment (PPE). Messrs Joki Engineering Consultants Limited and Messrs Westfield Global Construction Limited got the contracts.
Others include Uni-Medical Health Care Limited, Kaura Motors Nig. Limited, Future Concerns Limited, and G&T Motors Nig. Limited with contracts above N49 million each.
SOME RED FLAGS IN COVID-19 RESPONSE CONTRACTS BY MDAS
Aside from the concerns about the legal and compliance status of the contractors, Dataphyte also checked some questionable line items in the procurement processes. These items raised issues such as transparency, accountability, lack of purpose and priorities in the fight against COVID-19.
Some of the controversial procurement are:
- N38 million for IEC materials (posters) – A3 poster (233400 one), A4 poster (233400 one), laminated A4 poster for town announcers (191000 one)
- N1 million for COVID-19 ID card/pass – (local purchase order (LPO) for the production of 500 units of NCDC COVID-19 identity cards/pass — awarded by NCDC
- N18 million for procurement of liquid soap (liquid soap – 10000 millilitre per kilogram) — awarded by NSCDC
- N40 million for procurement of customised fabric face masks awarded by NSCDC
- N48 million for the procurement of hand sanitiser (hand sanitisers (500ml bottle) (10000 millilitre per kilogram) — awarded by NSCDC
- N29.7 million for 3,500 litre of antiseptic awarded by NCDC
FLOUTING BPP GUIDELINES FOR EMERGENCY PROCUREMENT
Dataphyte observed that the guidelines listed by the BPP were not strictly followed in awarding these contracts. Although the procedures were relaxed to accommodate procurement under emergency situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, the rules stated clearly that procuring entities have the responsibility to ensure that any contractor engaged to carry out emergency work is eligible to do business with the government and possesses the requisite technical and financial capacities to undertake the project.
Abdullahi Muhammadu, commandant general of the NSCDC.
But investigation showed that some of the procurement were done without due diligence and principle of transparency. Checks by Dataphyte showed that some of the companies do not have records on the BPP database. For instance, Messrs Alhaji Bello Maikusa & Sons Limited, a building contracting firm, was awarded a N46.5 million contract for the supply of non-contact thermometer gun (372 one) to the NSCDC.
Also, Messrs Bluzav Global Enterprises Limited received N21.54 million for the procurement of 30,000 vials of 200mg/20ml of Ribavirin injection. Other findings revealed Future Concerns Limited, which has no record on the BPP database, was awarded a N49.8 million contract by the NCDC Abuja to supply PPE.
THE PROJECTS AWARDED TO NON-COMPLIANT CONTRACTORS:
|Contractors||BPP status||MDA||Title||Amount||Job status|
|AKAKAA GLOBAL SERVICES LTD||NO||NCDC||PROCUREMENT OF ANTISEPTIC||N29.75 million||Completed|
|ALABI ANLAMOLE & SONS COM. (NIG) ENT.||NO||NCDC||Fumigation services at Deratization of the Central Public Health Laboratory, Yaba, Lagos.||N1 million||Completed|
|BIO-COMMS ENTERPRISES||NO||NCDC||Printing of 2019-Coronavirus Information Education and Communications (IEC) Materials||N2.5 million||Completed|
|M/S BLESSED PASCHALO GLOBAL LTD.||NO||NCDC||Local Purchase Order (LPO) for the production of 500 Units of NCDC COVID-19 Identity Cards/Pass||N1 million||Completed|
|M/S CHASOM GLOBAL RESOURCES LTD.||NO||NCDC||Procurement of Office Furniture, Air Conditioners and Public Address System for CPHL, Yaba, Lagos.||N3.7 million|
|M/S TRISITE LTD.||NO||NCDC||Establishment of a PCR Laboratory at the Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL), NCDC, Yaba, Lagos.||N28.8 million||Completed|
|NEOM SYNERGY VENTURES||NO||NCDC||Procurement of items to improve the connect center. NCDC HQ.||N9.5 million||Completed|
|EKO & OLIVE INVESTMENT LTD||No||NSCDC||PROCUREMENT OF CAMP BED||N20.1 million||Completed|
|T.A, ASARIS NIG LTD||NO||NSCDC||PROCUREMENT OF CUSTOMISED FABRIC FACE MASK||N40 million||Completed|
|G & T Motors Nig. Ltd||NO||NCDC||Urgent Supply of Additional Two (2) Nos. Toyota Hilux for the emergency response to COVID-19 Outbreak||N49.5 million|
|GOODWISE GLOBAL SERVICES||NO||NSCDC||PRODUCTION & AIRING OF JINGLES & ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR NSCDC ON FIGHT AGAINST THE SPREAD OF COVID-19||N16.9 million||Completed|
|GRACIOUS RUBY CONCEPT NIG. LTD||NO||NSCDC||PROCUREMENT OF HAND SANITIZER||N48 million||Completed|
|DIAMOND RAIN INTEGRATED SERVICES LTD||NSCDC||PROCUREMENT OF LATEX DISPOSABLE GLOVE||N19 million|
|ISAJ PHARMACEUTICAL CHEMIST LIMITED||NO/VERSION 1||NPHDC||Supply of Running Tap/Veronica Buckets & Dust Bins||N30.5 million||Completed|
|PHARMACONS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED||NO||NPHDC||Supply of Infrared Thermometers – Akwa Ibom Bayelsa Cross River||N23.6 million||Completed|
|DREAMS PHARMACY & STORES LIMITED||NO||NPHDC||Supply of Infrared Thermometers – Katsina Kebbi Sokoto Zamfara||N38.4 million||Completed|
|MESSRS SULBUH NIG. LTD||NO||MOE||SUPPLY OF SURVEILLANCE KITS ( THERMOMETERS, SANITIZERS)||N37.4 million|
|NICKTECK MEDICAL NIGERIA LIMITED||NO||OAUTH||PROCUREMENT OF HAND SANITIZERS||N1.1 million||Completed|
OFFICIALS REFUSE TO RESPOND
The ministry of environment, NCDC and NSCDC did not acknowledge several mails sent to them.
But when contacted, Emeka Oguanuo, spokesperson of the NCDC, said his team would follow up and get back. He later asked the reporter to visit the procurement unit of the NCDC in Abuja for further details.
On two occasions, Dataphyte reporter visited the NCDC head office in Abuja but the procurement head was not on seat. When asked to defend the procurement exercise by his department, an official said the non-compliant contractors were not for COVID-19 procurement.
“These companies were contracted for other purposes outside COVID-19 emergency procurement,” said the official who did not want to be quoted because he was not authorised to speak on the matter,” he said.
The reporter cited the example of the “Fumigation Services at Deratisation of Central Public Health Laboratory, Yaba, Lagos” contract, awarded to Alani Anlamole and Sons Com. (Nig) Ent. for N1 million, he said there there were some errors in the compilation sent to BPP.
He added that the NCDC had informed some of the non-compliant companies that they will not receive balance if they did not comply with the BPP Act.
But documents seen by Dataphyte showed that NCDC did not inform BPP of any outstanding payment.
NPHCDA did not reply to email and texts sent to its official line, while OAUTH directed Dataphte to the BPP for further details about the contracts.
In a letter signed by M.I. Olorounbi, director of procurement, OAUTH only listed the company registration number and BPP number of the two questionable contractors but provided no further details.
“Kindly contact the Bureau of Public Procurement for any further clarification you might need about the two contractors,” the letter read.
According to the BPP guidelines on the COVID-19 pandemic, MDAs are to send in completed projects, details of contractors, pricing, and accompanying images for the completed project.
Mansur Mamman, a specialist at the BPP, said all contractors awarded COVID-19 related procurement must fulfill all obligations according to the BPP Act.
“Even if it’s an emergency, they are expected to get contractors to run the projects and ensure the price is in order; write to BPP with full documentation, including pictures, and they have to ensure contractors have fulfilled all obligations,” he said.
“Contractors must have full verification and accreditation by BPP. They must have complied with Pension, FIRS, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, Industrial Training Fund (ITF) requirements.
“MDAs cannot say they cannot get contractors that have fulfilled all necessary documentations with BPP. You can easily verify on our portal before even issuing or awarding contracts. That is why they are professionals. Even in an emergency, you can get contractors within your locality on our portal in a minute. They are verified and available across cities.”
An official at the office of auditor-general of the federation (AGF) said the lack of strict mechanism and bureaucratic process continues to weaken the sanction process in procurement procedures. The official, who asked not to be named, told Dataphyte that the AGF can only audit MDA accounts and refer the audit findings to the national assembly.
STAKEHOLDERS CALL FOR PROPER AUDIT
Segun Elemo, executive director of Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), a civil society group, called for a real-time audit of public funding during COVID-19.
He urged the Nigerian government to learn from Sierra Leone on real-time audits of public funds and not raise red flags after a year or two.
“The emergency allows relaxation of some strict procurement procedures, but while they make emergency procurement, MDAs are to ensure the economic efficiency and accountability of public funds,” he said.
“MDAs have institutional ways of getting around this thing. They have been grounded in sharp practices, and this is time for them to capitalise on the loopholes.”
“The auditor-general must ensure there is an ongoing audit of all emergency spending. The ICPC should also step in. They should not wait for a year to start auditing; they must do a real-time audit of every expenditure, particularly COVID-19-related responses.
“We must ensure we get value for every kobo expended on the COVID-19 procurement so they can flag irregularities immediately. COVID-19 spending is a matter of life and death, and every kobo must be accounted for.”
Kachi Chukwu, programme manager at Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), also a CSO, said the whole procurement process is faulty itself. He frowned at how MDAs released spending without stating the exact amount and figure of specific items.
For Ijeoma Okereke, programme executive of Premium Times Centre for Investigative (PTCIJ), a proper breakdown of procurement items brings about efficiency and accountability in the public sector. For MDAs to follow the path of transparency, she said they must provide adequate information on whatever procurement they have made.
“We understand the moment of disaster comes with intense pressure for the government, but they should not let it be lawlessness. It can lead to bribery and corruption and a monopoly in nature. Contractors who have not met the laws of BPP would want to manipulate their ways because of the emergency procurement guidelines,” she said.
“In the end, we get less value for the money paid. How can you award N48 million for the procurement of hand sanitisers? Some local people can do those kinds of jobs.”
She advised CSOs to collaborate and track public spending during COVID-19 pandemic and continue to lead the voice against corrupt practices at government agencies.
The Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) is updating the COVID-19 emergency procurement regularly in line with regulations. The story captured the data up till midday, June 29, 2020.