A whiff of controversy appears to be trailing the selection of two firms by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) to conduct the audit of the oil and gas as well as solid minerals industries.
NEITI at the weekend named Sada Idris & Co. as the company selected to conduct the oil and gas industry audit for the period between 2009 and 2011 for a fee of N226.6 million, while Haruna Yahaya & Co. is to carry out the first solid minerals audit for 2009 and 2010 at a total cost of N137 million.
But some civil society groups have accused the agency charged with the responsibility of promoting transparency and accountability in the country’s extractive industries of neglecting transparency in the selection process that threw up the two firms considered largely unknown.
The president, Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDEBUMOG), George-Hill Anthony, noted that the process adopted by NEITI in the selection of the two companies appeared to have ignored the core pillars of EITI, particularly the need for openness, transparency and accountability in its activities.
“NDEBUMOG is a total stranger like every other Nigerian on how the auditors were selected. I only learnt about it on television,” Mr. Anthony said.
He said the lack of involvement of civil society groups and the media as observers in the bid opening, and final technical and financial bid evaluation has strengthened the fear that the two companies did not emerge through a transparent process.
Questions have also been raised by other civil society organizations against the experience and the technical capacity of the companies to handle a complex assignment as the audit of the country’s oil and gas industry and the solid minerals sector.
The Director, Communications of NEITI, Ogbonnaya Orji, who described the two companies as “reputable indigenous and independent auditing firms”, however said their selection process followed international competitive bid criteria, which include public advertisement in both local and international media.
According to Mr. Orji, out of a total of 22 companies that submitted expression of interests (EOIs) for the oil and gas audit, eight met both criteria contained in NEITI and Public Procurement Acts, adding that final bids were accompanied with details about technical partners with expertise in various sections of the industries. The list of the 22 companies that submitted EOIs was not disclosed.
Though he said a similar procedure was followed in the selection of the consultant for the solid minerals industry audit, the director did not say the total EOIs harvested and the number that were finally selected to submit bids.
“The Technical and Financial Evaluations carried out by a seven-man committee under a rigorous quality and cost-based procurement selection methods,” Mr. Orji said. “In the exercise, the two companies emerged as preferred bidders and were accordingly recommended to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for vetting and issuance of Due Process Certificates of “No Objection” leading to Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval. The projects were accordingly approved by the FEC on Wednesday 17th, January 2012 for award of contract.”
He said the emergence of the two firms was a positive statement on the ability of indigenous firms to compete favorably with international companies to redress national challenges, adding that the 2009-2011 oil and gas audit would bring NEITI up-to-date in compliance with the rules of global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and NEITI national mandate.
The two projects are expected to be completed on or before the end of the year.