By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The Executive Chairman of Benue State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Dr. Philip Tachin has clarified that the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, ensures due diligence and transparency in the preparation of work-plan and award of contracts by SUBEB across the country.
Dr. Tachin who was reacting to the discontent being expressed by the opposition and allegation of fraud leveled against the board over the preference of a Makurdi based plastic chair and table manufacturer where Governor Samuel Ortom used to have majority stake before his resignation some years ago, said those peddling the false story where ignorant of the workings of UBEC.
According to him, “before we advertised the jobs in the papers, we did a work-plan, which is a usual procedure of Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, and in this work plan all the items like furniture, construction, renovation and others must be itemized one by one and costed according to the prevailing market prices across the states.
“When you do this which is applicable in all the states, you take it to UBEC which has a unique standard and you cannot do anything outside of that. They also have prices of building materials as obtainable in all the states. So if you bid or propose what is higher than what they know they will not approve it. Moreover the prices differ in the states given their different terrain.
“UBEC regulates the way the work-plan is done. The plastic chairs are a unique item. In fact, some years back, like 2016 when we ordered for them, UBEC gave us official letters nationwide that these plastic chairs must be done in Osun State because a firm manufactures them in that state.
“So your work-plan will capture that. They approve the prices item by item. They have made that to be so specialized that you cannot even do it anywhere else and states have been going to Osun for that.
“But this time around when we were to do our work-plan we thought of capital flight from Benue especially when we have a plastic industry here. We felt we shouldn’t carry the money and give to another organisation that is far away from our state when there is a company here.
“We deemed it fit that it was better to find a plastic firm in the state that manufactures the chairs. But if we had not gotten any plastic industry here, we wouldn’t have even thought about doing it here. And the only plastic industry we have here is Oracle Plastic Company. It could have been another company entirely because If we had two or three we would have submitted their names.
“What UBEC requires is that we take a sample of their product for approval because they have their own specifications, so once you do a sample it has to meet their specification and it should in line with the approved sample.
“In fact before UBEC approved that we should manufacture the plastics here in Oracle it took a long debate because they insisted that it should be gotten from Osun state where they were used to.
“But I argued that they should also recognize that states that match these grants should also have their own benefits and that we should be allowed to source the plastic chairs here in Benue state.
“That is why UBEC accepted and approved it. So it is not as if the management of Benue SUBEB sat and came out with our own rates and the company that would manufacture the plastic chairs.
“It was done in conjunction with UBEC which verified the product and then approved. And that’s why we had to advertise, because it is only when they approve the work plan that you can advertise. So in all these we followed due process in the entire thing.
“Therefore whatever prices that were recommended by UBEC is not anything arbitrary, and whoever has an issue with that including the writer of the publication I saw is acting out of ignorance hence flying false information and I cannot let out what UBEC approved.
Continuing, Dr. Tachin said, “it is very very unfortunate when we go to a level of smearing someone’s name or the entire state or the Governor of the state. The Governor in the first place did not compel us to ensure that plastic chairs are sourced in the state.
“So is it because a company that manufactures plastics in Benue was chosen to manufacture for contractors to pick and distribute to schools in the state that some people are making a lot of noise? It is very unfortunate. Would the people making the noise prefer that the manufacturer based outside this state is chosen?
“In the first place we were not compelled to chose the only manufacturer in Benue, we thought it wise that since there is a company here which could have been any Benue indigene’s company it was better we patronized that company. But because it is a company that the Governor has already resigned from, some persons are making much noise.
“Besides, the way it is done, we are not going to take money and pay directly to the manufacturer, that will be a violation of the law. You award to a contractor who will go to that company to source the chairs.
“Even with the one in Osun state we never paid directly to the company. We awarded to a contractor who went and paid to the company to do the job and they lifted it from there and distributed in Benue. So what is wrong with us having a manufacturer here in Benue and the contractor is able to source the plastic chairs here?
“You see, we just have the propensity for self destruction, we don’t want Benue to move forward. Everything we do is to throw stones and make sure that we defeat our selfs. It is unfortunate, there is nothing like fraud in this case. So that is why I feel very offended by the publication that alleged fraud because it cannot be fraud.
“Everything including rates were approved by UBEC which ensures that due diligence and transparently is strictly adhered to. Are you going to attack UBEC for approving prices and every other thing for the states? We have not even awarded the contract, we only opened the bids and some persons started attacking us.
“What is the motive of those behind this? Is it the handiwork of those that felt that they will not get it who then decided that they should rock the boat or what?
“For crying out laud, we have Benue families working in that plastic factory and they will be the direct beneficiaries of the patronage from UBEC. Why do we enjoy these needless self destructive acts? It’s quite unfortunate.”