EXCLUSIVE: How Minister, TETFund, BPP Engage In Contracts Racketeering

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Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu and his protégé at the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), the Executive Secretary Dr. Abdullahi Bichi Bappa, are jointly colluding with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to violate exant procurement laws thereby shortchanging the country in the areas of revenues and qualitative service delivery, DailyWitness can authoritatively report.

TETFund was established as an intervention agency under the TETFund Act (Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment, etc) Act, 2011); with the responsibility of imposing, managing, disbursing and monitoring the education tax to public tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

The racketeers work hand in hand as tertiary institutions will request for a restricted tendering method for procurement, the BPP will grant a “Due Process No Objection” approval for the institutions and the Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) of the ministry of education will accordingly approve the award of the contract(s) under the TETFund intervention projects in violation of laid down procedures as enshrined in the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

Consequently, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) is currently investigating the trio on the strength of a petition forwarded to it by whistleblowers.

The petition, titled “The Need To Investigate The Sharp Practices In The Award Of Contracts In Federal Ministry of Education Parastatals With Connivance Of Bureau of Public Procurement: A Whistle Blowing” dated June 7, 2018 and addressed to the chairman of the ICPC was duly received at the commission on June 8, 2018, according to the acknowledgement copy seen by DailyWitness.

A particular case contained in the petition is that of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi, which sought and got approval for the award of contracts for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 TETFund Merged Normal Intervention Projects under alleged shaddy circumstances.

According to the whistleblowers, ATBU Bauchi had on December 3, 2017 approached BPP requesting for the adoption of Restricted (Selective) Tendering Method of procurement in respect of the above mentioned TETFund projects, to which BPP granted “No Onjection” approval in a letter addressed to the institution’s Vice Chancellor dated January 4, 2018 and signed by one Engr. Babatunde Kuye on behalf of the Director-General.

Apart from seeking BPB’s nod for selective tendering, ATBU also forwarded a list of pre-selected companies to the procurement regulatory agency to whom the contracts are intended for execution in order to beat time, among other concerns.

“This request has become necessary in view of the limited time available for execution of the remaining 2013 Needs Assessment Intervention Projects as a pre-condition for accessing 2014, 2015 & 2016 merged Needs Assessment Intervention Fund,” ATBU had told BPP.

However, in its response to the University’s request, BPP noted that “the procedure to adopt the selected procurement process without the explicit approval of the Bureau as stipulated under Section 40(I) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 is wrong and unacceptable.”

“Besides, the ATBU had ample time to commence these procurement processes prior to now through open competitive bidding particularly that all procurements are supposed to be conducted based only on procurement plans supported by budgetary appropriations. This reflects dilatory conduct on the part of the University.

“The Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi should note that the procedure regarding the adoption of Direct/Restricted and any other Special Procurement Methods must be strictly adhered to by first submitting and obtaining the prior “No Objection” of the Bureau of Public Procurement for Restricted Procurement.

“For the avoidance of doubt, only the Bureau is authorised under the Public Procurement Act, 2007 to grant approval for Due Process “No Objection” for any MDA to adopt any Special Procurement Method.

“The Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi is strongly advised to comply strictly with all provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 in its subsequent procurements to further enhance transparency to avoid the invocation of Section 6(1)(i) and (l) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007,” BPP said.

Surprisingly, despite expressing reservations with ATBU’s strange request, BPP still went ahead to grant the “Due Process No Objection” approval to the University, describing it as an “exception” rather than the “norm”, citing the provisions of Section 40(1c) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

The whistleblowers added that despite the apparent anomalies, the Ministerial Tenders Board of the Ministry of Education also went ahead to grant its own final approval for the award of the TETFund sponsored contracts by ATBU.

According to a letter dated March 16, 2018 with reference number FME/PROC/ATBU/2018/316/1 and signed by the ministry’s deputy director (Procurement), Engr. Victor Igboanugo, on behalf of the Minister, three contracts were approved under the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 TETFund intervention projects allocation for ATBU, to be executed by three pre-mentioned firms namely Pinnatech Engineering Ltd, Bamaco Investment Ltd, and Kamazaf Engineering Services Ltd to the tune of about N1.5 billion.

“Accordingly, you are advised to proceed with necessary process of award to the contractors as listed above,” the Tenders Board said.

The whistleblowers alleged that “about thirty million naira (N30m) has been collected as bribe from major bidders, and shared among members of the trinity fo corruption – TETFund, ATBU/Ministry of Education and BPP.”

“Mr. Chairman sir, the cumulative effects of these shoddy practices are manifold. However, a few need to be highlighted here,” which they listed to include loss of internally generated revenue (IGR) due to government as a result of limiting the number of bidders in a restricted/selected bidding process; and a questionable directive of 20% TETFund contracts earmarked for stakeholders by Dr. Bappa, who always turned out to be his cronies and the minister’s family members.

“Mr. Chairman sir, we are of the opinion that these problems were created ab initio by the Minister of Education, who nominated Dr. Bappa to the President for appointment as Executive Secretary of TETFund on the strength of their personal relationship rather than merit and competence.

“Mr. Chairman sir, we believe it is better to stop corruption than to be looking for recoveries at a much later time. Hence, we are urging you to use your good offices to thoroughly investigate these revelations with a view to bringing sanity in the process of public procurement,” the whistleblowers concluded.

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