The Bureau of Public Procurement is currently dragging to take a disciplinary action on the acting Director-General of the Project Development Institute (PRODA) Enugu, Fabian Okonkwo, who is found wanting to have failed to implement an audit report for the institute.
Okonkwo had been alleged to be involved in gross misconduct and failure to implement the contents of the audit report carried out by the federal government body, BPP, and submitted since May 2021.
One of the umbrella bodies of all the academic staff of research institutions, Academic Staff Union of Research Institutes (ASURI), also accused Okonkwo of insubordination, culminating in “criminal, unethical, extortion and unpatriotic activities of the PRODA management as well as ignoring the directive of the bureau contained in the audit report.”
In the interim procurement audit report on PRODA for the Financial Year 2018, 2019 and 2020, submitted since May 7, 2021, the BPP had mandated Okonkwo to commence the recovery of some substantial amounts of money running into several millions of Naira paid to the firms under the nullified/cancelled contracts.
He was also required to comply with the Bureau’s directive or face the full weight of the law that established the institution.
Part of the recommendation in the audit report stated, “You are required to submit to the Bureau on or before Monday, 31st May 2021, documentary evidence of compliance to the Bureau’s directives as indicated in the report.
“However, if the Bureau does not receive your response on or before the deadline, the Bureau will implement Paragraph 9.7 of the procurement audit report by recommending to Mr. President, disciplinary measures in line with the Public Procurement Act, 2007.”
However, the BPP seems to have given up on the directives several months after it issued the warning to Okonkwo as he refused to follow due process in the procurement matters relating to the award of contracts, the illegal sacking of staff and non-implementation of the audit report.
The ASURI National Secretary, Theophilus Ndubuaku, expressed his dismay over the inability of the BPP to carry out disciplinary measures against the acting director-general for his flagrant neglect of the directives from the supervising federal government agency.
He also said Okonkwo purportedly sacked and suspending some of their members in the procurement department for insisting that due process must be followed in the award of contracts.
In the Bureau interim procurement audit report on PRODA for the Financial Year 2018, 2019 and 2020 dated May 7, 2021 with Ref No. BPP/S.1/PAR/CCM/21/Vol.1/024 and signed by its Director-General, Mamman Ahmadu, it was observed that the reasons adduced by the acting director-general of PRODA to cancel an existing contract does not conform with or cannot be supported by any provisions of the public procurement act, 2007.
The audit report also recommended that the acting director-general should commence the process of recovering monies paid to firms including Messrs Bond Associates Nigeria Limited N47.3 million, Vivid R&D Partnership N48.6 million, and Maysu Construction Limited N46.5 million.
“There was no reason to cancel an ongoing or a concluded procurement process, without first seeking the Bureau’s position or relying on the relevant sections of the Public Procurement Act, 2007. For the avoidance of doubt, the reasons highlighted by the acting director-general of PRODA for the cancellation of the 2020 procurement are not admissible.
“The procurement filing system at PRODA is cumbersome as the project files were observed to be domiciled with several officers and the office of the acting director-general of PRODA leaving the procurement department with few documents. This made file location and retrieval for the audit exercise difficult.
“There was no evidence to show that the PRODA conducted due diligence/post- qualification in line with sections 16(7), 23(10) and 32(3)(1) of public procurement act, 2007 and SGF’s circular with Ref. No. SGF.50/5.52/III/652 dated October 11, 2017, on the winning bidders in the years under review.
“There is a need to strengthen the institute’s procurement unit to fill in the obvious gap for the administrative lapses and institutional deficiencies observed in the PRODA procurement activities by certifying more procurement officers to enhance efficiency, productivity, proficiency and capacity building,” the BPP stated.
BPP also recommended the investigation and prosecution of the acting director-general for “blatant refusal to comply with the relevant provisions of the procurement law and regulations.”
It was gathered that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on September 10, 2021, invited the acting DG, Okonkwo for questioning on the allegations of financial irregularities, abuse of office, unethical extortions but he was released for further investigations.