Summon Okonjo-Iweala, Adeosun, Oronsaye, others
By Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA — THE House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement investigating the pre-shipment inspection contract, yesterday, unearthed five ghost companies, which benefitted from N17 billion consultancy fees between 2011 and 2017 .
Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, who disclosed this, yesterday, read the riot act to all ministers and accounting officers of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, saying: “The shortest way to Kuje prison is through breach of procurement laws.”
Apparently disturbed over the slow pace of the investigative hearing, members vowed to unearth those behind the contract scam and resolved to invite Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance and Jonah Otunla, former Accountant-General of the Federation, AGF, to appear before the House on June 6, 2017 over alleged infractions in the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
Those also summoned by the House Committee on Public Procurement are Steve Oronsaye, former Head of Service, and Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance, to ascertain their roles in the payment of N17 billion to pre-shipment inspectors and monitors of oil terminals between 2011 and 2017.
The members in session decried the discrepancies between the submissions made by Federal Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
They observed that of the 12 pre-shipment inspectors and two monitors, which benefitted from the N17 billion, seven were appointed in line with due process, while five were appointed through the back door.
Oke, however, stressed the need for overhaul of the entire process, noting that a former governor of Bauchi State and former member of the House of Representatives, who was part of those who promulgated the procurement law, were sentenced to five years imprisonment.
He noted further that a former chairman of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, was also sentenced to two years imprisonment on the breach of procurement legislation before the Supreme Court intervened.
Perm Sec denies knowledge of N17bn payment
While responding to questions, Isa Dutse, Permanent Secretary, who denied knowledge of the N17 billion payment to the pre-shipment inspectors and monitors, said: “I have to confirm further. I’m not familiar with those payments but the Director of Finance is here. I have to personally check.”
On her part, the Director of Finance, Mrs Siyanbola, who aligned with the Permanent Secretary’s position, noted that the CBN was administratively in charge of managing the NESS fund.
In his ruling on the motion for summoning the Minister of Finance, Oke directed the minister to submit presidential approvals for extension of the pre-shipment inspection contract, agreement with the contractors, performance records, based on which the payments were approved as well as pre-shipment budget and procurement plan.
He also mandated the Minister and Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Finance to set up a technical team to enable the committee inspect the oil terminals and pre-shipment facilities.
The chairman further noted that the ongoing investigative hearing was aimed at strengthening existing institutions and amend relevant legislative frameworks that would aid transparency, accountability and fight against corruption in the country.
The Osun-born lawmaker explained that there was need for thorough probe of the entire pre-shipment inspection process, disclosing that all the submissions made by various agencies and operators were at variance, hence the need to scrutinise the entire process.
He said the CBN and Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, through their submissions, were at variance on whether or not the appointed pre-shipment inspectors were necessary and whether or not the exercise was carried out by the inspectors and monitors.