When some of us campaigned and voted for General Muhammadu Buhari, we did that in hope that he will move us from the old order, from the way things are done in this country. However, this morning we saw on Facebook, Twitter and other social media a picture people were gleefully sharing as something positive. Yes it is, if what we focus on is having a more modern and sophisticated trains. But it is far more than that.
This incoming government was elected on the platform of change, due process and adherence to the rule of law; a complete departure from the way things are? And if we are to go by that, then this picture is all wrong and it is by all standards a long walk back to what we are running away from. I’m an optimist about what General Muhammadu Buhari will do, but I’m also a pragmatist. In this picture, I see a maintenance of the status quo. And this is how and why.
One major promise (Nõ 5) that GMB and his Campaign Organization made to Nigerians is that upon becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he will immediately inaugurate the National Council on Public Procurement (NCOP). If he fail to do that within 100 days, we should consider him a failure. NCOPP is a fundamental requirement of the Public Procurement Act of 2007 (Part 1, Section 1).
The refusal of both late President Umaru Yar’adua and President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to inaugurate that council meant that from June 4th, 2007 till date all contracts exceeding N50million and subsequently adjusted financial limits were executed illegally. It also meant those responsible should be cooling off in jail. It will be a long list spanning 8 years, from June 4th, 2015.
The refusal of the two administrations to inaugurate that Council is understandable to professionals. Doing so means that contracts that meets certain financial thresholds cannot be award without the approval of the Council. And the reason they refused to institute the Council is because it is made up of two group of members – 6 full time and 6 part time.
The full time members of NCOP are members of the government appointed by the President, made up of;
<> Minister of Finance (Serve as Chairman)
<> Accountant General of the Federation
<> Secretary to the Federal Government
<> Head of Service
<> Economic Adviser to the President
<> DG, Bureau for Public Procurement (Serves as Secretary of the council.
While the part time members are largely organizations that are not in government. They are represented by their leaders, whose positions are subject to elections by their members are;
<> Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPSMN)
<> Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)
<> Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE)
<> Media (NUJ)
<> Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)
Each of the named professional bodies and CSOs are to send one member to represent them at the Council. By the letters of that Act, Presidents, Governors and Ministers cannot award contracts. The Council should. And the politicians will not allow a small burden like abiding by the same laws they create disturb them. They don’t want scrutiny from core professional bodies and CSOs. Just imagine the Presidents of CIPSMN, NBA, NSE, NUJ, NACCIMA and CSOs in every NCOP meeting and the nuisance they will cause political thieves. They want steal and steal and steal. So, no Council.
Now, here we are with GMB been shown a prototype of train by an executive of ONE foreign firm. Just one. The law requires ALL firms interested to go through open competitive tendering process, which Bureau for Public Procurement, Tenders Board of the Ministry or the Procuring entity or any recognized body should organize the process, from whence the winner will be awarded the job. We have to change the situation.
For this reason, if we wake up any day after May 30th, 2015, and we are told that the Federal Government has awarded a contract for the construction rail tracks, supply of engines and coaches and other equipment required for the smooth running of the system, without going through the process and without an NCOP in place, then GMB and his administration will by then continue the practice of breaking our laws and impunity, and especially with breaking campaign promise, which is to inaugurate an NCOP within days of coming to office.
I understand why people celebrate this picture of a Chinese, Japanese or Korean train building executive showing our President-elect a prototype of a train. Apart from the fact because we deserve better what is going on, it is borne out of ignorance of the legal, ethical professional and economic implications of having some foreign business person who possibly paid those that led him to the President-elect without recourse to the laws of our land. This is to hand an undue advantage to a firm and ignoring the principle of ethics and competition.
The new government must wait for May 29th, be sworn in, inaugurate a Council for public procurement, and advertise the job and invite potential contractors to bid. Anything short of that is both unethical and illegal. It violates section the principles of 4 (c – d) of the PPA. Buhari must never be seen with any business executive. All businesses interested must compete. And that is not me talking. It is a core procurement principle. All contractors, suppliers and service providers must be subjected to open scrutiny and competition. And that is THE LAW.
Time to stop wasting monies we don’t have. What happen to the billions Nigeria obtain in loans and spent on that “bogus” trains? What happen to the people that are responsible? Time to start doing the right thing, following the proper procedures. Time to inaugurate the NCOP and allow it.