Nigeria’s federal agencies continue to shun transparency and accountability in the procurement of COVID-19 items and contracting.
And with ₦600,000 for a laptop and ₦1.49 million in excesses for furniture and tents, what should MDAs prioritize during a health crisis?
The Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta and Corporate Affairs Commission are the latest notorious agencies in the COVID-19 fund jamboree, misusing ₦157 million on vague transactions.
Vague transactions and inadequate procurement details are part of the loopholes that government agencies and parastatals used to perpetuate illegal transactions and engage in corruption.
Ahead of the likely second wave of COVID-19, Nigerians want the government to explain expenditure on funds they earmarked for the pandemic earlier.
Nigeria’s federal agencies continue to shun adequate transparency and accountability in the procurement of COVID-19 items and contracting. In the latest NOCOPO data analysed by Dataphyte, the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta spent ₦106,715,000.00 on COVID-19 medical equipment and consumables.
Of the amount, the Centre spent ₦7.7 million on ‘EMERGENCY PROCUREMENT OF MEDICAL CONSUMABLES FOR THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC EXERCISE (214 Carton)’. It also reported using the sum of ₦99 million to buy and install a DIGITAL MAMMOGRAPHY MACHINE. Elsewhere, CAC bought furniture and tents in excesses worth ₦1.49 million.
This is not the first instance of questionable COVID-19 expenditure. And when you juxtapose these realities with the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19, the need for accountability and value for money from COVID-19 expenditure resounds.
Already many were upset to learn the government hoarded COVID-19 palliatives from the citizens in their time of need. To say nothing of the implication of these fortunes to an already decrepit healthcare system.
Also, these procurements not only question transparency and accountability, but contradict the essence of the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO). The government set up the NOCOPO platform as a window into her dealings with contracting. As such, stakeholders and concerned citizens can understand how and what their government utilised X funds on.
Contractor incognito, sparse details
Dataphyte learnt that while FMC Abeokuta awarded the mammography machine procurement to PPC LIMITED, there remains no contractor for the medical consumables worth ₦7.7 million.
Apart from this, the description of medical consumables for ₦7.7 million (214 cartons) is vague. Earlier, experts had hinted that obscure procurement details and vague transactions were ways government agencies concealed illicit transactions.
Further analysis also showed that the medical equipment procurement was not yet completed.
Are Digital Mammograms necessary for COVID-19?
According to Stanford healthcare, Digital mammography detects breast cancers at earlier stages, facilitating further evaluation with acquired data.
However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, hospitals and medical facilities closed shops for mammogram examination owing to uncertainty from the novel virus. And while experts still hint at the importance of cancer screenings, FMC Abeokuta’s choice to purchase a mammogram with COVID-19 procurement is questionable.
Moreover, digital mammograms had nothing to do with COVID-19, not in the direct sense at least. This was the response Dataphyte got from Dr Kola Longe, a Medical practitioner. “It is mostly used for the diagnosis of breast cancer- mostly for a person of 35 years and above.”
₦1.49 million in excesses for furniture and tents
Elsewhere, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) saw it fitting to spend ₦2.01 million on furniture and tents. Per data from NOCOPO, CAC procured CANOPY TENT DIMENSION 7.3X3.75M (6 one), BLACK HORSE PLASTIC VIVA TABLE (6 one), BLACK HORSE PLASTIC VIVA CHAIRS (200 one) worth ₦2 million.
While one may question the scrutiny on this purchase, first question the reason for omitting the price of the chairs per dozen or a unit. And instead lumping bulk sums for a contract given to Metrosource Limited on items clearly over-inflated. Interestingly, Metrosource is an architectural and construction company; now why would CAC contract an Architectural firm for chairs and tents?
Besides, checks by Dataphyte showed an inflation of ₦1.49 million in prices. Survey across markets in Lagos and Ibadan by Dataphyte showed that a unit of plastic chair (Black Horse) cost between ₦2,000 and ₦2,200 in Lagos and Ibadan, respectively. Also, a canopy tent costs ₦70,000, while Viva table goes for ₦5,000 each.
A trader at Aleshinloye market in Ibadan told Dataphyte that the wholesale cost of the items are even cheaper. “It is cheaper if you are buying more than five pieces. We can give you a discount.”
Also, CAC procured seventy (70) HP and Microsoft Surface Book Laptops for ₦48.5 million. On average, this implies that the Commission budgeted about ₦600,000 per laptop.
While productivity is important, emergency funds denote urgency. And ₦600,000 per laptop does not scream necessity. In reality, these expenses question the priority of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment in the face of health threat.
FMC Abeokuta Responds, CAC’s Public Affairs Officer Unreachable
Dataphyte could not reach the Director of Public Affairs, CAC, Mrs Shuaiu Maimuna, as known telephone lines were unconnected.
The platform is also yet to receive correspondence from emails sent to the CAC.
While defending the purchase of the mammogram machine, Mr Segun Orisajo, the public relations officer of Federal Medical Centre Abeokuta, said it was necessary because breast cancer is one of the comorbidity to coronavirus and can help reduce mortality in a patient.
“The pandemic presents itself in unpredictable ways, and its management is complicated by comorbidities that can be either benign or malignant medical conditions. The presence of comorbidities presents a great challenge to the survival of the patient, and their presence increases COVID-19 mortality.
The PRO later released a copy of the approved quotation showing awarded prices, quantities, companies, successful bidders, and adequate description of items.”
Bidding Wars: 3 Uncertified Companies Received FG Contracts
It seems the sparse details on the NOCOPO platform were not the only red flags. On receipt of the FMC quotation, Dataphyte found a tale of non-compliance with three contractors, FMC awarded the ₦7.7 million.
First, AYOLOLA TORONTO VENTURES NIG. ENT. failed to meet some requirements for undertaking federal contracts. Chief among which are a Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) and valid payment of tax through the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
Mr Orisajo, however, claimed that the six companies went through bidding rounds, after which FMC awarded contracts to the three lowest bids.
Further checks revealed that other two companies- F. F Trading and Arch Shapes Limited- have no record and are not on the Bureau of Public Procurement database of approved federal contracts.
Yet, FMC Abeokuta awarded contracts worth ₦4.9 million to these companies for the procurement of hand sanitiser and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
FMC inflated price of facemasks by 680%, Gloves by 12%
Speaking of COVID-19 PPEs, the Medical Centre also bought nine (9 cartons) of face masks for ₦4.2 million. Splitting the contracts between Arch Shapes Limited (5 cartons) and Ayolola Toronto (4 cartons), FMC quoted a carton of face masks at ₦470,000.
But markets’ survey by Dataphyte around Lagos shows that a carton of face masks goes for ₦30,000. During the COVID-19 peak period, however, a carton of face mask cost ₦60,000, according to sellers in Lagos markets.
At a shop in Mushin, Uchenna Okafar said the price of face masks has reduced from ₦60,000 during the period of lockdown to ₦30,000 at its current rate. At the Lagos Island market, a shop owner, popularly known as Chief Eze, pegged the price of a face mask at ₦58,000. Chief Eze further intimated to the reporter of discounted rates for bulk purchases. “You can reduce the price for you if you buy more than five (5) cartons,” he said.
Further checks also revealed that the FMC management inflated the price of examination gloves, disposable surgery gown, PPE Overalls, Methylated Spirit, and Liquid Soap. For instance, at the two markets, the price of examination gloves was ₦20,000 instead of ₦22,500 recorded by the management.
Also, the price of Sparkle liquid hand wash (500Ml) was ₦650,000, but the management’s record showed ₦720,000 – a difference of ₦120,000. The price of PPE overalls also hiked from ₦400,000 to ₦1.35 million with about a ₦600,000 hike.
Cost Of Wastage On FMC Abeokuta
As always, the bitter pill of wastage borne from opacity is the opportunity cost forgone to the economy, especially during a health crisis. Instead of spending ₦2.8 million, the Centre inflated the cost of awarding medical consumables by 175 percent. The difference of ₦4.9 million could have helped the hospital to buy 17 hospital beds at ₦280,000 each.
On disposable surgery gowns, the hospital could have bought 1,400 units at ₦3,500 per unit. This would have helped the Centre to pay the salaries of level 1 staff for eight months at ₦30,000/month (minimum wage) for five months.
MDAs Publish Inadequate Data On NOCOPO, OTP To Avoid Public Scrutiny
“One for the public, and another confidential…” This is the strategy MDA’s utilize to avoid public scrutiny per a principal officer (name withheld) at one of the state ministries in Lagos.
“There is one for the public, and another confidential one stating clear values, purposes, and reasons. Mostly, the public documents are full of incomplete figures and unclear transactions to clear room for public glare.”
He said procurement officers are well equipped and experienced, ‘any records you see with vague and incomplete transactions are only for the public’.
His comment further speaks to the Federal Medical Centre and other government’s agencies ‘ ways of handling the NOCOPO and OTP platforms. Since April, procurement items, payment of transactions and other financial payments either come with inadequacies and no description at all.
Office of the Accountant General unresponsive to queries
Also, Henshaw Ogbuike, a Press Director at the office of Accountant-General, asked the reporter to send text messages about his inquiry on shady COVID-19 procurement at MDAs.
After sending text messages and follow-ups, she is yet to reply to the request.
The Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris, also ignored text messages sent to his phone.
In July 2020, Mr Idris had pushed the responsibility of unclear and unambiguous descriptions of payments on the MDAs.
Expert asks BPP to sanction MDAs
Mrs Nkem Ilo, Chief Executive Officer of the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) queried why the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) did not sanction erring MDAs on procurement issues.
“Awarding contracts without stating contractors’ names should be an offense. Those are basic information that should be on NOCOPO. BPP needs to start cross-checking the market value of the contracts as well and raise alarm on shady deals until the government takes action. For instance, they have guidelines to report erring MDAs to the Accountant-General not to release funds. Where is their stand on this?”
She also advised Nigerians to monitor the procurement process right from the beginning and not at the end of the contract award.
“We should be able to know the procurement methods, guidelines, procurement calendar, and other mechanisms to ensure strict compliance with the Procurement Act.”
(Story source: Dataphyte)