The challenges of budget implementation failures in Nigeria may not be resolved soon as Nigerians confirm that the level of corruption in public procurement processes remains extremely high.
This much was revealed by the latest opinion poll organized by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). It is imperative that as long as these leakages exist in the system, development of infrastructure may be difficult to realise.
Several reports from government quarters and the media show that a high percentage of funds meant to execute projects end up in private coffers thanks to the unholy connivance of the public officials and contractors who are variously involved in the implementation of projects.
According to the LCCI poll, over 90 percent of respondents believe the level of corruption in the contracts and procurement processes in public sector is high, out of which about 50 percent believe it is extremely high. This largely accounts for the poor quality and delivery of public projects. Project monitoring and supervision by government to ensure quality service by contractors is weakened by the kind of involvement of the public officials in the contract processes.
It is advised that government structures and functionalities must be re-aligned in a due-process-compliant style that checkmates sharp practices. The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the agency of government responsible for regulating the processes of public procurement should collaborate with the statutory agencies like the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in studying the nature of these scams in the public sector which can form the basis of their crusade against the scourge.
The BPP had earlier revealed that it had saved a total of about N88.5billion from the award of contracts by various government ministries, departments and agencies In the last three years. Various other scams have been reported but with no serious prosecutions. Today, the failure of our yearly budgets due to poor project execution has led to the sordid state of infrastructure in the country which has continued to hinder the needed growth and development.
One major channel of these corrupt practices is contract cost inflation. There are also concerns about the use of fronts by top public officials in the procurement and contract processes. Various public personalities have always alerted that corruption is hindering the desired development in the country.
Curbing the menace of contract frauds requires that all hands be on deck at all tiers and levels of government. Until the political will to accomplish this is present we may have to live with the scourge of budget failures and under-development.
Only recently, the worrisome level of corruption in Nigeria was the subject of robust discussion in Lagos as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) decried the sickening state of corruption in all facets of life in Nigeria.
The principal staff officer to the chairman of EFCC, Bala Sanga, who was one of the speakers at a stakeholders forum on corruption in procurements and contracts in the public and private sectors of the economy said; “We are all corrupt. Unless as individuals, we champion the course of fighting corruption, 1001 EFCCs cannot solve the problem of corruption in Nigeria ”.
Sanga revealed a litany of ways those involved in procurement corruption go about their dastardly acts. These include requests for unnecessary goods/works/services and request for excessive quantities done to spend money at all cost; tailoring specifications to favour a contractor; suppliers promoting exclusive technical standards; vague specifications//briefs so that contract changes or post contract negotiations are inevitable; splitting contracts into smaller lots; restricting information to some bidders.
Others include acceptance of late tenders; disqualifying potential suppliers/contractors on minor/insignificant basis; preferential treatment of favourite suppliers/contractors; falsifying quality or standard documents; over or under invoicing, etc.
Speaking in the same vein, Emeka Eze, the director general of the Bureau For Public Procurement said between January and August 2009, the bureau saved N40 billion reduction in contract sum. He cited a case of a car (same make of car, same capacity) which different parties proposed to buy at N3.4 million and N7.2 million! He also said the bureau had records to show that transformer purchased in 2009 was cheaper than same transformer bought in 2001!
He gave reason for setbacks in procurement reforms in Nigeria . This, he said was as a result of limited competition – that is limited or no advertising; lack of transparency; limited and ineffective public bidding; unclear evaluation and award criteria; wrongful exclusion of qualified bidders; political interference and control in contract awards was predominant; selective tendering; sole source contracting, etc.
Eze said procurement procedure was not primed to achieve value for money since there was absence of procurement planning; limited or no prioritization; limited mandates given to tender boards; excessive advance payments; delay in execution and cost over-runs; delay, uncertainty and some times non payment for jobs done; inflation of prices and costs.
The results of this anomalies, according to him, were bid splitting; use of fake documentations and falsification of facts; collusion between bidders and between bidders and procuring agency staff; conflict of interest was dominant and unchecked; use of inferior materials in public procurement; multiplicity of prices in different departments for similar or same items; kick backs and bribery; abandoned projects, etc.