By Paul Odenyi, Abuja.
The Federal capital Territory Administration (FCTA) accumulated a debt of N64 billion within one month, the Minister of FCT Senator Bala Mohammed said yesterday in Abuja.
The huge debt was built up within the period of May 29, 2011 when the previous cabinet of the President Goodluck Jonathan was dissolved and early last month when the cabinet was reconstituted.
The FCT minister confirmed yesterday at an interaction between officials of the Bureau of public procurement (BPP) and procurement officials of the FCT administration that the huge debt were all approved in the interregnum when core civil servants were in charge.
He lamented that the administration’s annual internally generated revenue is a mere N40 billion.
He said though part of the sum had been repaid by the administration, the management of the FCT during the period it did not have a minister embarked on a spending bazaar, without regard to due process and the level of revenue at its disposal.
As a consequence, Senator Bala Mohammed said no new spending approvals would be given without evidence of inflows of revenue from the same project. “I have over N64billion to pay.
That is a commitment and I have only managed to generate about N40billion. The first step in procurement should be to know how much you have in your kitty.
I will not sit down and approve projects because they are in the budget. If you have not generated the necessary IGR or got the requisite allocation, I will not approve that,” said the minister.
Earlier while addressing the meeting the Director General of the BPP Engr. Emeka Eze, admonished the procurement personnel of the FCTA for failing to adhere to due process and procurement guidelines in its execution of contracts in the territory which he said has led to fraudulent activities.
He also accused them of using the name of the minister to perpetrate massive fraud. He disclosed that most of the fraudulent practices were done with projects worth N50 million. Under the BPP act, contracts worth N50 million and below were awarded through inter departmental tender board which are constituted by only officials of the ministry or agency.
However, for contract of more than N50 million, the agency of ministry is required to send for Federal Executive council approval.
The DG also disclosed that some personnel of the FCTA authority have been interrogated by the anti corruption agencies lately as a result of the sharp practices going on in the authority. He said many more would be sent to either the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).
At the interactive session with procurement officials of the FCTA, the DPP Director General, said the bureau would strive to minimise the incidence of faulty procurement which he explained had compelled the anti-corruption agencies in the country to interrogate some officials of the FCTA.
Eze further said: “Some of you might have been invited by the EFCC/ICPC to come and answer questions in relation to procurement that you have done. We want to reduce the incidents and believing that actually most of them were done not out of your intentions but out of ignorance.
“Suffice it to say that the last time we met here, we reminded you that the mandate secretariats have the power to initiate, process and execute projects between N10million and N250million for works and then N50million for services. When it is beyond N250million, you go back to the Permanent Secretary and if it is beyond N1billion you come to the BPP.
“There is a whole lot of complaints going on out there that a lot of under-hand practices are going on especially in projects less than N250million where most officers are involved.
“Registration with the FCDA or the secretariats is not a requirement for allowing companies to bid since they have already been incorporated by the CAC. Many at times when bids are returned, you do not make the contractor to sign. The contractors have complained that you intimidate them in the name of the minister.
That is why we insisted that the minister must be here so that he can hear what his officials do in his name. They will bring out names and say they are from the minister or the Permanent Secretary and this is why many Nigerians who have no access to power or the minister and Permanent Secretary just go about hoping that God would intervene.
“We also noted that during the evaluation of your report, you change the criteria mid-stream and the law is very clear. It says you must not introduce any criteria other than as stipulated in the approved document.
And when you confront them, they will say that the minister influenced them,” lamented the BPP boss who noted that the meeting was necessitated by the need to let the minister know how his officials have continued to use him as a scapegoat.
Meanwhile, the FCTA administration has allocated two plots of estate land to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC ) for the development of residential quarters for both the staff and commission members.
This was announced by the Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed while receiving the Chairman of the INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega in his office yesterday.
He said the allocation is part of the effort by government to guarantee the independence of the Commission, which has played a pivotal role in deepening democracy in the country.
He praised Professor Jega for meeting the expectation of Nigerians and the International community on the conduct of the last general election, urging him and the commission to continue to guard the autonomy and integrity of the electoral body.
Professor Jega said he was at the FCT minister’s office to congratulate him on his re-appointment as minister of the FCT.