PPA 2007, corruption and unresolved capacity deficits

PPA 2007, corruption and unresolved capacity deficits

On the eve of the celebration of Eid al-Adha, and in accordance with the powers vested in the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in Sections 5(1), 148 and 171 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu relieved Mr. Mamman Ahmadu, the former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, of his duties and directed him to relinquish his position to the most senior Director of the Bureau. Following this directive, the most senior Director of the Bureau, Barrister Olusegun Omotola, took over as the Supervisory Director-General of the BPP, according to reports. This is in line with the FGN circular of 4th July 2017.

Recall that on March 18, 2011, in similar circumstances, the then President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, sacked the Acting Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Professor Uriah Angulu, from office, through a letter signed by Abdullah Yola on behalf of the then Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN.

The news of Mr Ahmadu’s sacking as the Managing Director of BPP did not come as a surprise to many Nigerians, especially stakeholders and practitioners in the public procurement ecosystem. It was clear during his last outing, when he visited the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), that he had indeed come to the end of his ostracized tenure. The statement by the Chairman of the EFCC, Barrister Ola Olukoyede, during the visit, that the Public Procurement Act, 2007 (PPA) does not help the Commission in the fight against corruption came as a rude shock to operators in the public procurement sector.

It is not surprising that the Ease of Doing Business Council, under the chairmanship of Vice President, Kashim Shettima, gave the BPP a zero percent (0%) rating in the last review, as it is clear that the BPP is a quasi-judicial body, a regulatory agency that needs to be properly constituted for effective, efficient and statutory performance.

The law, which is part of the transparency laws enacted by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo under the recommendations of the World Bank Public Procurement Assessment Report (WB-CPAR) of 2000, as well as the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management of Nigeria’s CIPSMN Act of 2007, is shocking that a lawyer and head of an anti-corruption agency like the EFCC can make such a statement before the Managing Director of the BPP without getting any response. Many see it as a demonstration of lack of adequate knowledge on the subject.

Some of us who have had good working relationships with the EFCC and ICPC have decided to remain silent because it is obvious that both leaders, the BPP and the EFCC, are simply ignorant of the provisions of the PPA 2007. For the above reasons and to discuss the main subject of this article, it is healthy to leave this undeserved expression of “mistake” for now.

Now, following the President’s statement on June 15, major newspapers and other media outlets across the country have reported Mr. Ahmadu’s removal, but little has been said about the new “acting DG” of the Bureau. A visit to the BPP website, however, yielded more information about him. Under the Federal Government Circular of July 4, 2017, the most senior director of any government agency takes over from any director-general who can be removed under any circumstances. In this sense, the director is supposed to “supervise” the agency until a substantive director-general is appointed.

So what are the consequences of the government’s failure to adhere to the rule of law as defined in the Public Procurement Act, 2007, implemented in conjunction with the CIPSMN Act, 2007, on the growth and development of the economy? The answers are many and the facts are glaring. Ironically, every government, from the Musa Yar’Adua era to Muhammadu Buhari, has complied with the law by disobeying it. Instead of fighting corruption, the worm is multiplying by the day, and we all either pretend not to see it or just pretend to fight corruption.

Research has shown that corruption in public procurement accounts for over 70% of total corruption cases in the system (see NGO Network Report on Public Sector Corruption 2010). While anti-corruption agencies are battling corruption issues on a daily basis, corruption in public procurement seems to have defied all logic, but the answer is simple but overlooked.

Lack of capacity to interpret laws, enforce them and question offenders is the bane of our large scale corruption in public procurement. For instance, no public procurement audit report has been submitted to the National Assembly as required by law in Section 5(P) of the PPA since 2007 because the PPO does not to date have a competent and qualified person as required by law to sign a public procurement audit report and lay it on the table of the National Assembly twice a year as required by the above section of the law. It has been exactly thirteen (13) years since this law was enacted and we are yet to fill the huge gap in our quest to fight corruption.

The situation is compounded by the absence of a National Council for Public Procurement (NCPP) as required under Part 1, Section 1 of the PPA to endorse the audit report before it is submitted to NASS. Yet, year after year, we have financial audit reports submitted by a competent financial professional like the Auditor General of the Federation, which serves as a benchmark for financial and economic assessment. Out of the three basic audit reports required for economic reforms, the financial, physical and procurement reports, the last one has not seen the light of the day. Yet, public procurement alone accounts for the bulk of the corruption recorded daily in the system. Sections 5(a), 5(p) and 2(a) of the PPA 2007 as well as sections 16(1), 16(2) to (4) are very clear on the implications of operating without these documents authenticated by the Council.

The Act (PPA 2007) which provides for the establishment of the NCPP was passed in 2007 by the National Assembly, 13 years ago, but previous Presidents, in accordance with sections 5(1), 148(1) 4(2) and 4(3) as well as section 171 of the 1999 Constitution, have failed to inaugurate the Council till date. President Umaru Musa Yaradua attempted in September 2007 to inaugurate the Council, but this was cancelled when the members of the Council were seated due to a written report by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management, CIPSMN, to the President that the BPP submitted the name of a student member of the Institute to the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, without consulting the Institute to confirm who is a member of the Council which has not yet been inaugurated by the Act.
To be continued tomorrow.
Attah is a procurement professional and the National Coordinator of the Procurement Advocacy and Monitoring Initiative (PRADIN).