By Ibrahim Sheriff (Gold) & Abdulrasheed Akogun
The bid for the years 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 Universal Basic Education Intervention FGN-UBEC/SUBEB projects is characterized by cronyism, prebendalism, contract racketeering and crass disregard for provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and Kwara state Procurement Agency Law 2018, Fresh Insight’s investigation has revealed.
This is coming on the heels of numerous videos of the Executive Chairman, Kwara State Universal Education Board (KWASUBEB), Prof. Sheu Abdulraheem Adaramaja complaining about shoddy jobs being executed by some of the benefiting companies, handling the ongoing renovation of government owned schools under the auspices of KWASUBEB, which were discovered during the commission’s unannounced ongoing project inspection tours.
It would be recalled the Kwara State Government on November 2020, through the State Universal Basic Education Board, in an advertorial signed by the Director Admin, illegally called for invitation to tender for the UBEC Intervention projects for the six (6) years period.
Kwara SUBEB however placed fresh advertisement for the same projects with additional requirements in January, 2021. At that time, Kwara SUBEB had no Board Chairman nor properly constituted Board, as against the provisions of the Kwara State Universal Basic Education Law, 2005 as amended.
THE KWARA SUBEB PRE-QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
According to the Advertisement by Kwara SUBEB, the projects were categorized into A and B, with Tender fees ranging between #10,000 and #100,000. Though without properly constituted Board at that time, Kwara SUBEB listed evidence of registration of business with Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, registration with Kwara state Ministry of Works and evidence of registration with KWSUBEB as tender qualification requirements.
Other requirements according to the tender advertorial includes possession of Tax Clearance Certificate for the immediate past three (3) years (2017, 2018 and 2019), Company Audited Account for the past three (3) years (2017-2019), evidence of financial capability with Bank supporting reference, experience and technical qualification of key personnel, evidence of performance in similar projects with performance certificate of payment(s), equipment and technology capacity with evidence of ownership or lease and VAT registration and evidence of past VAT remittance.
Kwara SUBEB also required evidence of Industrial Training Fund, ITF compliance certificate, evidence of current Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF compliance certificate, evidence of registration on federal contractors, consultants and service providers data base valid till 31st December, 2020.
KWSUBEB VIOLATION OF OWN RULES
Fresh Insight’s investigations revealed that the entire bid process runs contrary to the advertised requirements by the Kwara SUBEB, as companies not registered at all with the CAC were listed among successful bidders to whom the contracts were awarded by the Kwara SUBEB.
Fresh Insight’s search on over two hundred (200) out of almost 600 companies to whom contracts were awarded revealed that more than 25% of the companies were not registered and clearly ineligible to have meet the advertised requirements, talk less of undertaking projects.
Notwithstanding the 3 years (2017-2019) Tax Clearance Certificates and Company Audited Account required for eligibility in the advertorials, Kwara SUBEB also awarded contracts to companies newly incorporated between 2019 and 2021, which makes it practically impossible for the companies to have either 3 immediate years’ Tax Clearance Certificates or Audited Accounts, an act contrary to Section 34 (1) of Kwara state Procurement Agency Law, which provides that procuring entity (SUBEB in this case) shall set-out precise criteria for consideration of bids and apply only the qualifications set out in the pre-qualification documents.
Among the successful bidders published by Kwara SUBEB, at least fifty-five (55) were not found to be incorporated with the CAC, while three (3) were registered this year, 2021. About ten (10) of the companies were incorporated in 2020, another ten (10) were newly incorporated in 2019 while eight (8) others were registered in 2018, bringing the tally of companies registered earlier than 2017 to 31. This brings total number of ineligible companies by the virtue of registration status to about 86 of 200, summing up to about 43% of the 200 published successful bidders.
GOV. ABDULRAHMAN ABDULRAZAQ INDICTED
Fresh Insight’s investigations discovered inherent prebendalism, contract racketeering and fraudulent practices in the bidding process for the UBEC/SUBEB intervention projects for years 2014-2019.
According to data exclusively gathered by our investigative team, some members of the Kwara State APC Association of Indigenous Contractors were not present nor participated at the open bid held on Monday 29th March, 2021 at Kwara SUBEB premises, allegedly on the instruction of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, who, according to the suspended Chairman of the APC Indigenous Contractor, Alh. Mashood Aigoro already promised them some job slots.
According to chats extracted from the Association’s WhatsApp platform, Fresh Insight confirmed that Alh. Mashood Aigoro and other members of his group stayed away from the open bid conducted by Kwara SUBEB.
Aigoro, via his WhatsApp number +234 703 811 9588 on the Kwara APC contractor’s forum on 17/03/2021, at 8:49am said “Good morning members. if you have all these requirements, please go to SUBEB office for tender (sic) your company, but if you don’t have, continue to pray for me and governor to succeed what am pleading for your benefit. All of you should know the governor interested (sic) on indigenous to benefit democracy. please and please continue pray for governor and people who stand for us as well without mentioning any name. tx.”
However, on March 29, 2021 at about 3:27pm, a member of the APC Contractors group Femi Omowumi referring to another member of the group said “Yomi, I expect you to be at the tender venue. None of d (sic) Executive members is here and u (sic) are busy discussing hijab issue.”
Responding to one of the messages on the group chat querying absence of the APC Indigenous contractors at the venue of the Tender, Aigoro said “please call me and challenge me straight, when education tender happen, I got for contractors (sic) without putting my company and this one also let us the no your group are go to get. Congratulation to the man of honour Prof. Adaramaja”, Insinuating he has gotten contract for others in Education Ministry.
Aigoro furthered on the chat group “And for this too, let us know your numbers, I will still get for ‘your Group’.”
Reacting to Aigoro, another member said “Misplaced priority! The question is where were you when they call for KICS? Abi kICS only operate in numba 1 kano street ni? Now the official new regarding SUBEB is out KICS is out of it. So, what is our stand? Where is our registration money? Querying Aigoro and others absence at the open bid to protect others interest. Yet, they were given contract slots.
However, a source among the APC indigenous contractors claimed Aigoro was given forty-five (45) slots of contracts, and another forty (40) to make a total of eighty-five (85). It was alleged that the contract slots handed to Aigoro were allegedly being sold at between 15-30% of contract sum, proceeds of which was said to be used in financing support for Gov. AbdulRazaq’s numerous support groups.
Speaking with our reporter on condition of anonymity, a Kwara based contractors who bided for the SUBEB contract, “We bid for the contracts, with tender fees of between #10,000 – #100,000, before the Bureau of Public Procurement got aware and directed that Kwara SUBEB maintain the tender fees pegged at #10,000 and we were duly refunded later.
“Some of us met all the pre-qualification criteria which were stringent but were not awarded contracts. It was however surprising that some APC contractors who did not even come for open bidding were given slots which they are even selling to people, even from outside Kwara State”, he added.
Our investigations also showed sharp practices in the bid process, as some suspicious companies were awarded contracts. For instance, a company, Zeatob Nigeria Limited of No 9 Hellen Ofoegbu street, off Pipeline road Tanke, Ilorin, incorporated on May 25, 2011 was awarded a contract. Meanwhile, the same set of Directors were listed for Botaez Nigeria Enterprises, reversed name spelling of the former, which was registered in 2020 and also awarded contract, despite the latter’s ineligibility. An appearance that smells foul play.
GOV. ABDULRAZAQ’S MEDIA AIDE USES SISTER AS FRONT
Fresh Insight’s Investigation also revealed that the Kwara SUBEB contract also listed a company traceable to a Special Assistant to the Kwara State Governor on New Media, Olayinka Fafoluyi popularly called Solace, who is joined as Director of Fidelinfo Ltd by his blood sister with shares of 900000 (Nine Hundred Thousand) and 100000 (One hundred thousand) respectively. This is contrary to Section 8 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2010, which prohibits gratification by public officials.
The company, Fidelinfo Ltd, with address as No. 3, Pipeline Road, opposite Mount Olive Church, Tanke, Ilorin, Kwara state is one of the companies registered in 2020 and did not meet the prequalification criteria set for the UBEC/SUBEB intervention projects for years 2014-2019 by KWSUBEB, but was listed as one of the ‘successful bidders’ by the Board in flagrance disobedience to Section 34 (1) of Kwara state Procurement Agency Law. Fidelinfo Ltd was incorporated on July 17, 2020.
Since the company has as one of its directors, younger sister to the Special Assistant New Media to Gov. AbdulRazaq, Simisola Fafoluyi, which makes it a no brainer to discover how it maneuvered its way through the corrupt, fraudulent and illegal bidding process.
Denying the allegations leveled against him while at the same time confirming contract racketeering, the embattled Kwara APC Indigenous Contractors Chairman, Alh. Moshood Aigoro in a telephone interview with Fresh Insight said “I did not sell contract to anybody, all indigenous contractors under me nobody bought tender, I agitated for all of them through an association set up by me and self funded. It was some of our members who brought qualified companies and we negotiated with the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and later the Governor.
“Governor even had to personally call me and he told me he would not be able to take care of all the indigenous contractors at a go, but those of us that got, they should remit a percentage to the association, so we’ll use it to take care of those who are yet to be a beneficiary. That was how we came about the sharing formula of 30 percent and 70 percent profit sharing formula for the association and contractors respectively.
“I was given 54 contracts and not 85 as being alleged, I gave it to each and every contractor. They later came to me that the government did’nt mobilize them and thus they lack the muscle to execute the contract, so they offered to sell the contract.
“Therefore, anybody that was willing to sell, I connected them to willing buyers and they negotiate on their own terms without me getting involved, I only served as the middleman. I in turn receive the agreed sum, hand it over to the beneficiary and then change the name of the company executing the contract. It is legal, because we wrote letters to the Governor, SUBEB and several other government functionaries on the agreement reached before changing any name.
“The bone of contention is the 30 percent they are to remit, now they are ganging up against the founding vision and agreement with which we set up the group, after benefiting, thereby shortchanging the remaining members yet to benefit from the contracts.
“They are only trying to gang up to hijack the association after i had toiled day and night to build the group to this height. It is however not new, that is the ways of some of our people, they did the same thing for me during the Gov. Bukola Saraki era, just like during the governorship of Late Admr. Muhammed Lawal.
“Not up to 10 percent of our members were able to raise the required pre-qualification funds payable to KWIRS, Ministry of Finance, SUBEB etc, so there was no way they have qualified to even attend the bidding process. That was why we got links of those with tender and we negotiated on joint profit sharing formula, now that we’ve gotten the contract for them, they’re reneging on the prior agreement.
“I was the one the Governor handed everything to, after I wrote a letter to the Governor listing the names of all our members and the Governor approved same and it was on that basis that i was given the 56 contracts to share amongst my members” he concluded.
CAPITAL FLIGHT HITS KWARA
As against the campaign promise of the Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, to prioritize indigenous firms in their area of competence, Fresh Insight’s investigation revealed that not less than 77 of the 200 companies listed as successful bidders for the UBEC/Kwara SUBEB intervention projects are non-Kwara based.
While the tally of indigenous contractors on the list stood at sixty-eight (68), about fifty-five (55) were unregistered and therefore untraceable and about seventy-seven (77) others, constituting over 38% of the successful bidders are non-indigenous contractors. While majority of the successful bidders are Lagos and Abuja based companies, others are Ogun, Oyo, Kaduna, Gombe, Borno and Adamawa based.
When contacted, the Chairman, KWASUBEB neither answered numerous calls placed across to him nor returned same. He nonetheless responded to text messages seeking clarifications to the discoveries via a terse text message “send your questions”, which was followed by Fresh Insight sending him 3 questions, all of which was yet to be answered as at the time of filing this report (4 days after). A follow up text message in form of reminder was also unanswered more than 72hours after.
In the same vein, when contacted, the Press Officer of Kwara SUBEB, Monsurat Atere directed our reporter to either call the Chairman (Adaramaja) or come to the office for more clarifications, stressing that the inquiries required would need a physical visit to the office.
However, denying the allegations leveled against the government, the Kwara State Commissioner for Communications, Buraimoh Olaitan Abosede described the allegations as false and nothing but a rumour meant to tarnish the name of the government and distract it from the good job it is doing.
She said “The rumour is just a negative propaganda and it is baseless because it doesn’t have any iota of evidence to back it up, especially with regards to giving contracts to Governor’s appointees. The Public Procurement Agency goes through all contract procedure and that is why no contract can be executed without following due process and aligning with relevant laws.
“The Governor places premium on due process, no project will be approved by the Governor without the clearance of the relevant procurement and due process agency. The Governor places premium on transparency and accountability” she stressed.
TO BE CONTINUED