The annoyingly slow pace of infrastructural development by the incumbent administration and its predecessors has been attributed to the preponderance of red tape due to the activities of low and middle level cadre civil servants.
It was learnt that these cadres of workers cash in on the provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007 to frustrate the execution of projects meant to provide the dividends of democracy to the people.
This was revealed to newsmen by Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South) in an exclusive interview in which he lamented that despite the passage of the 2016 budget, no new projects are being executed by the federal government.
The senator, who is also the Senate Committee chairman on Works, expressed dissatisfaction at how the due process Act negatively affects governance at the federal level
For instance, he said, many of the federal roads in the country are still in bad shape because of the tardiness of the Due Process practice and its executors.
Reports has it that the Public Procurement Act 2007 was enacted by the federal government, among other things, to harness, maximise and utilise available resources of the country for the improvement of life of its citizens, thus the creation of a robust Public Procurement System (PRS) for the execution of all government projects, works and services.
But Gaya who was Kano State governor, called for its review to avoid sluggishness.
He suggested that the thrust of procurement should be the prerogative of the minister and his permanent secretary in any ministry, department or agency, so as to accelerate the tempo of service delivery to the citizens.
He called for a review of the procurement law to accelerate the pace of development.
He said: “As chairman of Works Committee, I am not happy with what is happening. The roads are terribly bad. Why I say I am not happy is that up until now we are still on this due process of tendering. It takes six months to tender a project. It is too bad. The bureaucracy arrangement was wrong. It (the Act) wasn’t passed by us. We even asked for the reviewed Act. But that has not been signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. We expect that, that should be signed.”
Explaining his reservations, he said: “When a president swears in a minister, the minister is given the responsibility to act on behalf of the president in that ministry. And then a permanent secretary is also sworn in or appointed as the accounting officer. But all these people are now subjected to a junior officer who is in charge of due process, who decides who gets the job.
“I mean, it is not fair. When the president gives his power to the ministers, let the ministries do their own procurement within the ministry. Let the ministry have access. That is why you find that when the ministries are doing their due process thing, you hardly find any permanent secretary being involved because he is not part of the system.”
Gaya added his voice to those calling for the Act to be reviewed in the light of present realities.
“This due process system should really be addressed. We all know that it was introduced as far back as during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but it is not effective for some parts of this country. It is not effective for some contractors.”
He bemoaned the situation where non-professionals are given the responsibility of managing the existing BPP, the unwillingness of officials to comply with the Process Compliance mechanisms and improper pricing system, among others.
It was learnt that the approval thresholds allowed by the Act are categorised into three: contracts below N1 million, contracts above N1 million and contracts of N50 million and above
These, in case of all federal government contracts, are subjected to reviews and certification by the BPP. Once the contract procedures are concluded, the Ministerial Tenders Board proceeds to forward its conclusions and all relevant supporting documentation to the government.
Afterwards the Due Process Certificate is issued and the contract is forwarded to the Federal Executive Council for final approval.
Our correspondent, however, learnt that it takes long before the process reaches the above stage when open and selective tenders are done. In the first type of tendering, contracts, purchases and services above N10 million are required to be advertised in at least two national dailies and/or government gazette, and on the Notice Boards of the procuring institution.
In the second type of tendering, a minimum of three reputable contractors in specific areas of specialisation are selected and invited to bid.
All, these the senator stated, are cumbersome, time consuming and opaque.
He said: “It is not conducive for some contractors. With all the conditions put there, before you get the job, you will spend N2-N3 million and at the end of the day you lose the job; it is not good.
“Let’s give the trust to the ministers. Let’s give the trust to the permanent secretaries, and let them work with their staff and qualified contractors who are ready to do the job.”
According to the senator, it is this unduly long procurement process and payment certification that makes the implementation of the annual budget by government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) difficult.
“As of now, we passed the budget earlier this year, yet no project has been started. All the projects that are going on are old ones. There are no new projects.
“I am not happy about it. I have already spoken to the minister of works about it but this is beyond the minister. I implore the president to look at this matter and give responsibilities back to the ministers, the permanent secretaries and the procurement departments within the ministries and the agencies,” Gaya said.