By Henry Umoru
THE Senate has queried the nation’s secondary examination body, the National Examination Council, NECO, over alleged award of contracts to the tune of N6.5 billion without due process .
According to the Senate, the contracts awarded by NECO are the printing of security and non- security documents.
This was raised by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, led by Senator Matthew Urhoghide, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which relied on the 2017 report of Office of Auditor General for the Federation submitted to it for consideration.
According to the Auditor General, NECO is unable to present any record to show that approval was granted for the contract by the Ministerial tender board in the first contract that cost about N451 million. In the second contract that cost about N6.1 billion, quotations were not collected from three bidders as required by PPA 2007.
It also noted that taxes were not deducted from some of the contract payment, even as there was no technical and financial evaluation.
According to the report, evidence of placement of advertisement was not attached to either payment vouchers or contract files. The report noted further that the amount expended was above the threshold of the Council and that the contracts were split, with some awarded to same contractor with LPO and work order issued on the same date.
The query read: “Examination of records and documents revealed that the Commission’s Tenders Board approved the award of contract for printing of security materials in the sum of ¦ 451 million to a company in March 2017 in contravention of provisions of federal government circular No.SGF/OP/I/S.3/XI/849 of January 16, 2016.
‘’The circular reiterated that the approved revised thresholds for service wide application, for which the Parastatal Tender Board can only exercise authority on works whose value is less than ¦ 250 million, while any sum above this, is to be referred to the Ministerial Tenders Board for approval. “We sought the authority for the above approval, including the ministerial approval but none was provided. “The above unilateral award of contracts without following due process may lead to awarding contracts to unqualified contractors. Recommendation The Registrar/CEO should be sanctioned in line with provisions of Financial Regulation 3117.”
In his response, NECO’s Registrar, Prof. Godswill Obioma, who spoke on the issue of N461 million, said: “These are payments to Data Science Nigeria Limited for the supply of optical mark readers for objective question papers for various examinations conducted by the Council.”
The committee sustained the queries on the ground that the Council could not provide evidence of approval from the Ministerial Tenders Board before awarding contracts beyond its threshold.
The second query read: “Examination of contracts awarded for the printing of security and non- security documents valued at ¦ 6,166,405,407.42 revealed that the contracts were awarded without compliance with the provisions of PART VI, Section 24 (I) of the Public Procurement Act (PPA) 2017 as amended, which states that except as provided by this Act, all procurements of goods and works by all procuring entities shall be conducted by open competitive bidding.
“The following irregularities were also noted, quotations were not collected from three bidders as required by PPA 2007, taxes were not deducted from some of the contract payments.
‘’There was no technical and financial evaluation, evidence of placement of advertisement was not attached to either payment vouchers or contract files. The amount expended was above the threshold of the Council,
‘’The contracts were split as some contracts were awarded to same contractor with LPO and work order issued on the same date.”
Also responding to the N6.1 billion query, the Registrar said: “ The contracts for the printing for our questions are warded through selective tendering. This is the case to avoid leakages of our examinations and award of contract to printers of doubted integrity.” Chairman of the committee sustained the query because the Registrar was unable to defend it.