…No, we don’t it-DG
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
A mild drama played out at the 2022 budget defence of the Bureau for Public Procurement, BPP with relevant Committee of the House of Representatives oversighting their activities.
The drama followed the insistence of the deputy chairman of the House Committee on Public Procurement, Hon. Uju Kingsley that the Director General of the BPP, Mamman Ahmadu must go beyond the N50 million budgeted for procurement audit of his office.
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Kingsley also insisted that 112 staff strength was grossly inadequate, a reason he said was responsible for delays in issuing certificates of no objection by the Bureau.
But Ahmadu in his response said that the Bureau was comfortable with the budgeted amount and that his office was not complaining of shortage of manpower to deliver on its mandate.
Besides, he said that with recourse to the lean resources and the economic crunch the country was facing, it behoves on them to manage what they had.
But the deputy chairman maintained his stance that the BPP DG should ask for more money and hands.
The back and forth between the duo attracted attention of virtually everyone in the room of the defence session.
He said: “From here, you gave us a nominal role of 112, out of which 91 are direct staff of the BPP, 1 DG and 20 staff from the poll. I understand that we have about 805 agencies you are oversighting.
“Do you think that 91 staff is enough to do the job of regulating 805 agencies because if you do the arithmetic, it would mean that one person, including your drivers and security men will be oversighting eight agencies. I am of the view that moving forward, this agency requires staff.
“We cannot run away from it, no matter what it is. Each time the agencies appear before us, they always lay the blame of the delay in the procurement process in the BPP not giving them certificate of no objection on time. Honestly, we need to get more staff and speed up activities in your agency.
“Secondly, I don’t know whether your agency don’t need money. But I believe that Bureau for Public Procurement needs more money. I don’t see the effectiveness of using N50 million to carry out your procurement audit. I don’t know how N50 million can take care of 805 agencies and you get effective results.
“Whether it is by design, omission or commission, I strongly believe that the job you are doing requires more money for your audit. Auditing 805 agencies with N50 million is not realistic even though I don’t believe in statistics because air transport alone will take away this N50 million.
“How do you then print your paper, get these agencies and audit their books. How do you even submit your biannual report to the National Assembly? The BPP is not sufficiently funded to do their job effectively for the benefit of Nigerians.”
“What it means on record is that you don’t need more staff to do your job and that you are comfortable with the number of staff you have? Are you also saying that the funds are very much ok for the work you have to do? We are seeing under utilisation of funds released to you. If you feel you don’t have direct answer to our question, you can put in writing to the Chairman.
“If you are comfortable with it, we agree with you. You mentioned employment audit. In our standing order, we have the mandate to oversight you and you said you are comfortable with N50 million.
“We are not asking you to go and waste federal government money. We have all the cameramen here and I would not want to see headlines tomorrow that National Assembly wants BPP to indulge in wastage.
“The law says that you shall submit a biannual report to the National Assembly. I know very well that the audit is in line with both the provisions of the public procurement act and the functions of the committee.
“The one you submitted to us is for 2014/2015 and what that mean is that we still have a backlog of about five years procurement audit. If we have backlog of over four years procurement audit and you have been there for about five years, what that mean is that since you assume office, you have not provided the National Assembly with audit report and what you gave us was for 12 agency out of 805.
“We are talking about funding the agency to function effectively and here you are saying increasing N50 million is a wastage for us to get the procurement system.working effectively. I do not believe in it and cannot succumb to such cheap explanation. You need to go and do more work.
“There was a motion in the House that the agency should help is and give us report of procurement audit. I get embarrassed when I read in the newspapers procurement problems, infractions and irregularities. What it mean is that this committee is either not doing the job or the BPP is not doing their job.
“Even in NNPC, we read in the newspapers procurement infractions and we do not have information to work with. I wanted to beg the Chairman to go to appropriation committee with a appeal to raise this funding mechanism. The funding for public procurement is too meagre to actually supervise 805 agencies.”
In his response, the Director General maintained his position on the matter.
“In addition to the staff on our nominal roll, we have procurement officers in the main civil service. They are staff that we are responsible for as well. We manage their posting and the various MDAs are training staff that converted to procurement officers a d they are not captured in the figures you have.
“We are not short of the people that are doing the work. But in the BPP headquarters, the people that carried out reviews and issue certificates of no objection are the ones we captured in our nominal role because they are directly under our pay roll.
“We are not under staffed, but there is an optimal level.ofmstaff that you require without wastage and we are about that. Too many people can be a clog on the wheel of progress. Sometimes, it is better to have few than to have many. It saves money for government, it saves time and it can drive the process optimally to deliver. That is what we are doing”.
Reacting to the issue of delays in issuance of certificate of no objection, he said “we have timelines which we have been keeping strictly to and that is 14 days from the date of submission of the request. But until you have made submission, we cannot commence the process of issuing certificate of no objection.
“Sometimes, in making submission for no objection, the requests are not backed up with the required documentation. In such cases, we write back to the procuring entity to provide the missing documents. That is where most of the delays comes from.
“We have always been sensitising them to commence their procurement process early and alot of them.dont do that. They wait till it is getting extremely late before they come to us. But we still maintain the time line we have given to ourselves.
“So, I don’t see any agency with any strong reason to complain about BPP being the source of their failure. But any person that is drowning would want to hold onto anything in sight and that is why they make such statements. The Ministry of Works which a high profile procurement entity will attest to this because they will not come here to tell you this type of story”, he said.
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