• Saraki flays anti-graft crusade
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement has summoned the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun over the alleged violation of the law in the engagement of consultants for pre-shipment inspection and monitoring of crude oil and gas exports from the country.
Adeosun and the permanent secretary in her ministry are to appear before the committee led by Mr. Wole Oke by 10:00 a.m. today in the two-day investigative hearing on the issue at the National Assembly in Abuja.
Activities in the oil and gas sector are reportedly bogged down by a lack of transparency. The probe, if efficiently carried out, may be another measure at checking corruption in the industry.
Members of the committee who condemned the absence of the minister were further incensed after the Director of Legal Services in the ministry, Mr. Christopher Gabriel said he was not prepared to make submission on behalf of the ministry.
Oke, who grilled the Director General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Mr. Mamman Ahmad over the non-adherence to the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari on due process, wondered why the bureau failed to carry out due diligence in the evaluation. He particularly accused the BPE of abdicating its responsibilities to verify claims of bidders who were allegedly ranked prequalified fraudulently in a bid to mislead the ministry.
The BPP boss, who disclosed that the prequalification process had been completed and the report sent to the finance ministry, insisted that outfits picked industry practitioners based on security reports and available information.
Oke wondered why the Ministry of Finance decided to delve into the affairs of the petroleum ministry, and queried the BPP boss for not adhering to the rule of open competitive bidding as specified by the PPA Act.
A member of the committee, Mr. Ossai Nicholas Ossai drew the attention of the BPP boss to how three of the firms, including Trobell International Limited owned by an individual that evaded the payment of taxes, were picked and tasked with both the inspection and monitoring of oil exports from the country.
An attempt by the Managing Director of Trobell, Mr. Thomas Sedi, who was at the investigative hearing, to distance his outfit from such infractions failed as Oke confronted him with evidence that his outfit evaded tax since it under-declared a ridiculous amount of a turnover of N795,000.00 which was a clear aberration.
Oke, who lamented that the BPP sidelined duly qualified firms in the polity, said the committee would refer the issue involving Trobell to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the police, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), and the Department of State Services (DSS) to unearth the level of breaches involving the pre-qualified firms.
The Auditor- General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Anthony Mkpe Ayime who testified before the lawmakers said he was not in the know of the entire prequalification exercise.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki has reviewed the styles adopted in waging the war against corruption by the President Buhari-led administration submitting that they had failed. He advocated deterrence rather than punishment in order to permanently win the war.
Saraki made the comments in his speech at the public presentation of Senator Dino Melaye’s book titled: Antidotes For Corruption – The Nigerian Story held in Abuja yesterday. He declared that the Federal Government had not achieved much in its war against corruption because the anti-graft agencies were under pressure to demonstrate that they were working well.
“Most often, therefore, because our anti-corruption agencies are under pressure to justify their existence and show that they are working, they often tend to prefer the show over the substance. However, while the show might provide momentary excitement or even public applause, it does not substitute for painstaking investigation that can guarantee convictions,” Saraki said.
Charging the government and its officials to show more openness and accountability in their dealings, the Senate President stated: “The people are demanding more openness, more accountability and more convictions. Those of us in government are also responding, joining the conversation and accepting that the basis of our legitimacy as government is our manifest accountability to the people. We acknowledge that if we want Nigerians to trust their government again, then government at all levels must demonstrate that we are not in office for the pursuit of private gains, but to make our people happier by helping them to meet their legitimate aspirations and achieve a higher quality of life.”
On why deterrence is a better approach to fighting corruption, Saraki said: “I am convinced that we must return to that very basic medical axiom that prevention is better than cure. Perhaps, the reason our fight against corruption has met with rather limited success is that we appeared to have favoured punishment over deterrence.
“We must review our approaches in favour of building systems that make it a lot more difficult to carry out corrupt acts or to find a safe haven for corruption proceeds within our borders.
“In doing this, we must continue to strengthen accountability, significantly limit discretion in public spending, and promote greater openness,” he said.
On why the current style adopted to fight corruption is wrong, Saraki said: “The problem with that approach, however, is that the justice system in any democracy is primarily inclined to protect the fundamental rights of citizens. Therefore, it continues to presume every accused as innocent until proven guilty. Most often, it is difficult to establish guilt beyond all reasonable doubts as required by our laws. It requires months, if not years of painstaking investigations. It requires highly experienced and technically sound investigation and forensic officers. It requires anti-corruption agents and agencies that are truly independent and manifestly insulated from political interference and manipulation. We must admit that we are still far from meeting these standards.”
The Senate President, however, declared that tremendous progress had been made in the fight against corruption under Buhari in the last two years. “One area I believe we have made remarkable progress is that corruption has been forced back to the top of our national political agenda.
“Every day you read the newspapers, you listen to the radio, you go on the Internet, you watch the television, the people are talking about it. The people are demanding more openness, more accountability and more convictions.”
The ceremony chaired by the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Umar Ghali Na’Abba, also had in attendance Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; former governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada; former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Mohammed Bello and Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, among others.