June 1, 2017

Reps probe award of multi-billion naira contract to 5-day-old firm


House of Representatives

By Emman Ovuakporie

ABUJA— The House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement, yesterday, vowed to unveil owners of the five-day old company, which got contract for deployment of revenue monitoring solutions on telecommunication companies from Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS.

The committee also had to adjourn hearing as the Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Babatunde Fowler, and other key stakeholders failed to show up at the venue.

Oluwole Oke, chairman of the committee, who revealed this at the opening of the investigative public hearing, however, expressed displeasure over the failure of Babatunde Fowler, FIRS Chairman; Ifueko Omogui Okauru, former FIRS chairman; Joseph Ari, Director General of Industrial Training Fund (ITF) and management team of National Pension Commission, PenCom, and Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, to honour the invitation of the committee.

The documents obtained by the House, showed that the Certificate of Incorporation issued by Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, showed that the company was registered on the December 2, 2016, while FIRS awarded the contract on December 7, 2016.

The petitioners further alleged that FIRS breached Section 6(3) of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) Act 2011 and relevant Procurement laws.

During the hearing, the lawmakers chided FIRS chairman for failing to provide relevant documents on the FIRS Procurement documents from 2016 to 2017 under his purview.

Two former FIRS chairmen who appeared before the committee are Kabir Mashi and S. S. Ogungbesan

Sponsor of the motion, Onyema Chukwuka, had expressed displeasure over the award of the “contract to ASISL notwithstanding the fact that the company was incorporated at the Corporate Affairs Commission on 2 December, 2016, just two working days before the award was made.”

According to him, this is indicative of the fact that the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and other subsidiary legislation were not complied with.

He explained that the FIRS recently engaged the services of 100 tax consultants to conduct tax audit and assessment on companies in Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt but noted that  the engagement process was not made public and not competitive as required by law.

In his opening speech, Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, who was represented by the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, frowned on the spate of breaches.

Dogara said:  ‘’All procurements of agencies of government for goods, works and services are subjected to various processes and criteria as stipulated in the Public Procurement Act, 2007 which was enacted to curb excesses found in the award and execution of government’s contracts.

“More importantly, this law was enacted with the aim of checkmating corruption and procurement irregularities, thus ensuring that government obtains value for money and by extension, enhance the fight against corruption.

“The Federal Inland Revenue Service is an agency of government saddled with the responsibility of delivering quality service to tax payers, in partnership with other stakeholders. The agency is also expected to operate a transparent and efficient tax system that optimizes tax revenue collection and voluntary compliance that enhances the revenue of government.

“Instances and allegations of abuse, disregard, breach and violation of the provisions of this law in whatever form should be investigated.’’

While urging all the stakeholders invited to make suggestions, contributions and constructive criticism on the subject of the investigation, Dogara urged the committee to look into all the submissions and positions presented critically, thoroughly and dispassionately in order to ensure a meticulous investigation.

In his ruling, Oke, who presided over the session, directed CAC, ITF, PenCom, and other regulatory agencies to provide relevant documents, requested for Certificate of Registration and Incorporation, evidence of tax payment among others, of the beneficiary companies for verification on June 6 2017, when the investigative hearing would continue.