By Chidi Nkwopara – Owerri
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Contracts heard that the Government House Contract Task Force established by the Rochas Okorocha administration awarded so many contracts directly.
Former Principal Secretary to the governor, Dr. Paschal C. Obi, made the disclosure while answering questions from the witness box.
“The Government House Contract Task Force, which I headed, was established in full compliance with a resolution of the State House of Assembly, which declared a state of emergency on the infrastructure. The Task Force awarded so many contracts directly”, Obi said.
Asked to explain how the projects were originated, the former Principal Secretary said: “The projects to be awarded, were originated by the governor and members of the State Executive Council and passed on to the Task Force.
“The governor usually gave instructions on the duration of any contract and I conveyed the governor’s approval to the Accounts Department.”
Answering another question, Dr. Obi said that payments for all works carried out, were made by either the Accounts Department of the Government House, if they had funds, or the Accountant General’s Office.
He also told the Judicial Commission that supervision and inspection of government contracts were not part of the mandate of the Task Force, but quickly.
“The governor was working with a team, for the inspection and supervision of projects. The governor confirmed the extent of work done and what was due to any contractor. No contract was awarded without the contractor signing the contract agreement”, Obi said.
Asked to state the position of the State Tenders Board in the whole affair, Dr Obi said: “The State Tenders Board existed for a while, but the Government House Task Force virtually did the bulk of the jobs of the State Tenders Board.”
On whether he was aware of the existence of the Procurement Act, Obi said he knew about it, but quickly added that “the governor usually gave the Task Force waivers on tender procedures and what we did were in line with the governor’s decisions”.
While agreeing that there were no tender analysis, Dr Obi also said that “there was no need to refer issues to the Ministry of Works for expert advice because it would amount to waste of time”.
The Judicial Commission’s Chairman, Justice Benjamin Iheka, who asked Obi return to the witness box March 6, 2020, for further questioning, was, however, not happy that the former Accountant General, Mrs Nathan Udogwu, and the former Secretary to the Government of Imo State, Sir George Eche, were absent at the day’s sitting.
Justice Iheka adjourned their matters, JUD/CICA/14M/2020 and JUD/CICA/15M/2020 respectively, to March 3, 2020, to enable them to appear and give evidence in the ongoing inquiry.