By Elijah Akoji
Repeatedly, Nigerian government Ministries and Agencies have been found to disregard procurement regulations when awarding contracts, a practice that has detrimentally impacted development and fostered corruption. This trend persists despite the existence of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, and the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, which categorically prohibit the award of contracts in violation of procurement rules and the non-execution of contracts after payment to contractors.
In this investigative report for Hama Media, Elijah Akoji delves into the Ministry of Education’s expenditure of over N18 million for the painting of school gates. Although this project was not accounted for in the 2021 appropriation, evidence obtained from the Federal Ministry of Education’s procurement office reveals that it initially surfaced in the 2020 budget as an ongoing endeavor.
A substantial sum of N1.9 billion was allocated for the enhancement of security infrastructure across 104 colleges, encompassing perimeter fencing, solar street lighting, solar-powered boreholes, and CCTV installations. The Ministry classified this initiative as a “box” project, signifying a consolidated undertaking.
However, despite its classification as a 2020 project, an inspection of the project site revealed that the questionable project was only executed in 2021, a year later than expected. Intriguingly, the Ministry insists that the project was carried out in 2020, in apparent contradiction with the payment records, which clearly indicate a one-time payment to the contractor in 2021. This discrepancy is at odds with the Procurement Act, which mandates a 15% mobilization payment to be released to contractors before project commencement.
According to Tunji Salau, a procurement expert, the timing of a project’s execution can vary significantly. He explains, “It is entirely possible for a project to be included in one year’s appropriation and then executed in a subsequent year. This timeline largely depends on when resources become available for the project. In some cases, financially robust contractors may even proceed with project execution and then receive payment in the following year.”
In contrast, Bobai Jonathan, the Deputy Director of Procurement at the Federal Ministry of Education, maintains that the project was awarded in 2020 and executed in the same year. He cautions against relying on the payment records provided by the reporter, asserting that they do not align with the actual progress of the project.
“Your records contradict ours,” Bobai contends. “I distinctly recall that we awarded this specific FGGC project in 2020, and all payments were made and cleared within the same year. I would advise you to review your records for accuracy.”
He goes on to clarify that while the 2020 budget bundled various projects together into an all-encompassing initiative, including the provision of security infrastructure across Federal colleges, perimeter fencing, solar street lights, solar-powered boreholes, and CCTV installations in schools, the specific project awarded for FGC Bauchi entailed the construction of perimeter fencing and the painting of the wall
Project Specifications Awarded to Hasib-Services Ltd:
This reporter obtains the precise project specifications granted to Hasib-Services Ltd from the Ministry’s deputy director of procurement. The document, endorsed with the stamp and signature of the procurement department, outlined the project’s specifications as follows:
- Brick/Block and Walling, priced at N5,012,000
- Plastered/Rendered/Rough Cast Coating, with a cost of N1,887,650
- Painting/Clear Finishing, budgeted at N1.688,965
- Concrete work, amounting to N1.914,000
- Formwork For In-SITU Concrete, valued at N1.286,000
- Barb Wire, accounting for N6,003,000
- Contract condition agreement, at N391,652
- Additional details include N998,712, which represented the 5% Allowed Project Admin fee, N499,356 designated as a 2.5% Allow contingency fee, and N1,610,424 added as VAT. The sum of all these figures brought the total payment to N23 million.
Regrettably, an onsite visit to the school unveiled a stark disparity between the investment and the actual work accomplished. The only discernible progress was the painting of the school gate and a section of the adjacent fence.
Efforts to confirm the executed project and ascertain the timeline faced a roadblock when the school’s principal, Alkali Fatima Larai, declined to respond to press inquiries. The Principal directed the reporter to seek permission from the Ministry in Abuja before she would address any questions. She, however, asserted her belief that the project had indeed been completed.
Left with no other recourse, the reporter decided to approach the school’s security guard at the gate, believing he might possess comprehensive knowledge about the security infrastructure and construction work carried out. This proved to be a successful move, as the security guard was eager to provide detailed information regarding the work performed, its completion date, and the nature of the work itself.
Ibrahim Umar was the sole security guard on duty during the reporter’s visit, as his colleague was scheduled to take over the night shift. With just two security personnel, they alternated shifts between themselves.
Curiously, Umar was forthcoming with information and detailed the exact timeframe of the project’s execution. He explained, “I’ve been a security guard at this school for the past five years, and I’m quite familiar with all the projects undertaken here. When I’m on the night shift, I sometimes assist with construction work during the day to earn some extra income.”
Umar, while not entirely clear about the concept of security infrastructure, denied the presence of CCTV cameras, security alarms, or other sensitive security equipment. He asserted, “We are the school’s vigilant eyes, both day and night, so there’s no such equipment here.”
Regarding the school gate’s appearance, which seemed refreshed with a new coat of paint, the reporter inquired whether the gate had been newly constructed. Umar clarified that the gate had always been in place but was painted just a few years ago. He added, “The gate you see has been here before I joined the school as a gatekeeper. It was only painted once, and that happened in 2021. I have no information about which ministry or agency carried out the painting work, although I was involved in the painting.”
Umar confirmed that the only work conducted was the painting of the gate and a portion of the adjacent fence. There was no plastering work, no addition of barbed wire to the existing fence, and the entire fence was not painted, contrary to the project specifications.
Regarding changes to the gate’s doors, Umar reiterated that the sole work performed was painting, with no replacements or alterations. However, he did confirm the installation of a double long gate barricade at the entrance and exit of the school gate.
In contrast, Bobai Jonathan, the Deputy Director of Procurement at the Ministry of Education, insisted that the project had already been executed.
He claimed that the Ministry’s notification of completion and project supervision were carried out by the Federal Ministry of Works. Bobai clarified, “As the awarding ministry, our role is to initiate the bidding process, vet qualified bidders, award contracts, and process payments. Once the contractor begins work on-site, it becomes the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Works to oversee and ensure project completion. To verify completion, we receive a letter from the principal, confirming that the work has been finished, which we then certify and document. All these steps were followed.”
When pressed to provide a copy of the principal’s consent letter from the Federal Government Girls College, Bauchi, Bobai, after searching the project file he had brought, could not produce either the letter of consent from the principal or a certification letter from the Ministry of Works. Nevertheless, he asserted, “Regarding the FGGC Bauchi school project, I can confirm that it was fully executed.” Bobai praised Hasib-Services Ltd as a long-standing and reliable contractor that consistently executed projects to specification.
Concerning Hasib-Services Ltd’s address, which was listed as No. 209 NNDC QTRS. Goriba Avenue, Hotoro GRA, Kano State, the reporter’s visit revealed that the supposed office building was actually a residential house. Furthermore, multiple searches on the Corporate Affairs Commission’s official website yielded no records of the company.
Hasib-Services Ltd, according to its registered description, engaged in the trade or business of construction work and the demolition of structures. Although Bobai from the procurement department provided the contractor’s contact information, numerous calls and text messages went unanswered.
This publication is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.