By Kingsley Adegboye
Against the backdrop of alleged corruption in the public procurement system in Nigeria, the principal partner of Etudo & Co, a Lagos-based firm of estate surveyors and valuers, Ebube Etudo, a chief, has called for a total overhaul of the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP.
Etudo who spoke to a select media in his Igbosere office, Lagos Island at weekend, said the principle of public procurement says that it must be open, competitive and transparent in order to get the best in terms of quality and price, adding that the Act requires that any firm bidding for a government job must be PensionCom compliant, it must not be newly registered company, it must not evade taxes and must not owe salaries.
But according to him, the handlers of public procurement do not adhere strictly to the stipulated requirements which makes the system not transparent, open and competitive.
Disclosing that not up to 30 per cent of the country’s procurements are concluded annually, Etudo & Co boss said if the procurement entity and the government fail to do the right thing, his company will make the issue public as it has more than enough evidence to substantiate its case, explained how he got involved in public procurement.
According to him, “I got interested in 2010 when I read an advertisement for a job by a government agency. I discovered that my firm could not participate, even though we were qualified in terms of experience and competence. What happened was that we weren’t compliant in other areas.
“As somebody who believes in total compliance, I got interested and saw the public Procurement Act as a water tight legislation that will help Nigeria to grow the economy if we fully comply to its principles. The section 16 of the Act spells out some fundamental principles guiding public procurement including openness, equity, fit for purpose, transparency and competitiveness to give value for money.
“The law applies to projects where government money is involved up to 35 per cent. It encompasses the activities of joint ventures of oil companies and others. In line with this principle, the violation of any section of the Public Procurement Act is criminal. By extension, if we stretch the interpretation of the Act, the federal, state and local governments must comply with the provisions of the Act.
“This is because they receive more than 35 per cent of their revenue from the federal government. If the provisions of the Public Procurement Act are complied with, I believe that governments across board will save up to 70 per cent of their expenditure for capital projects.
“If we adhere strictly to the principles of the Public Procurement Act fully, we should be able to save up to 80 per cent of government expenditure going by the extent of violations in Nigeria. It has the capacity to create more jobs for citizens as well as reduce the cost of goods and services for government and it opens the field for everybody to participate.
“We fail to see any justice in a system that allows any firm that has not fulfilled the requirements of the law to compete for government jobs with firms that have complied with the law. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Public Procurement with due respect, is aiding and abetting corruption as its officials collude with procuring entities to tailor jobs to preferred bidders. We’ve had occasions where our bid envelops were surreptitiously opened to steal our figures” Etudo lamented.
On the way out, he insisted that the BPP should be completely overhauled while there is need to create enough awareness to make majority of Nigerians be aware of the provisions of the Act, emphasising that “It is important that we make Nigerians know about the Act as this will go a long way in helping to ensure high level of compliance. If everybody becomes aware of the provisions, the possibility of joining the crusade will be easier.
“It is a fight all Nigerians must participate in to enthrone accountability and eliminate corruption in our body polity. As we speak nothing has changed, the fight against corruption must be total and the public procurement act is a veritable tool to fight this menace. Corruption is pervasive in our society because we lack the political will to fight the menace forgetting that the architecture of corruption is very weak and it crumbles with minimal force”, he stated.