President Muhammadu Buhari, who is ending his first term in office, has failed to constitute the National Council on Public Procurement, in violation of a federal law.
The Public Procurement Act 2007 places a duty on the president to constitute the NCPP, which, as the law stipulates, is responsible for government procurement matters, including approval of contracts. It also acts as a control board for the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).
However, Mr Buhari, despite repeated promises to the contrary, has continued to lead the Federal Executive Council to usurp the powers of the NCPP.
Mr Buhari’s disregard for the law follows the paths set by his predecessors – late President Umaru Yar’Adua and former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The Public Procurement Act was signed into law by Mr Yar’Adua on June 4, 2007, to allow transparency and ensure public participation in government procurement.
Activists say not complying with the terms of the law with regards to the NCPP as well as continuing to lead the FEC to approve contracts mocks Mr Buhari’s much vaunted anti-corruption commitment.
In the campaigns ahead of the 2015 presidential poll, Mr Buhari, through his campaign, promised Nigerians he would constitute the NCPP if elected.
The promise was contained in a document titled, “My covenant with Nigerians”.
In that campaign material, the then candidate said he was going to “inaugurate the National Council on Procurement as stipulated in the Procurement Act so that the Federal Executive Council, which has been turned to a weekly session of contract bazaar, will concentrate on its principal function of policymaking.”
Although the president, after assuming office disowned the document containing other promises such as full disclosure of assets and liabilities, a PREMIUM TIMES fact-check showed the ruling All Progressives Congress did authorise it.
The document was authored by the policy and research directorate of the APC presidential campaign, headed by the governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, when the party was trying to convince Nigerians to abandon the then ruling PDP.
Then, following a PREMIUM TIMES report of December 2017 drawing public attention to Mr Buhari’s lawless handling of public procurement, the Presidency restated the promise to constitute the council “as soon as possible.”
Reacting at the time, presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu said: “I just read your story on Premium Times, lumping the Buhari Administration along with the others as violating the law by failing to inaugurate the National Council on Procurement.
“It is true you have followed up with us on the issue for several weeks, but it is equally true that your interest in the issue has given us the impetus to follow up relentlessly with our bosses.
“This issue came up at the last meeting of the Federal Executive Council, and a decision was taken that the Council be inaugurated as soon as possible.”
Nearly 18 months after that promise was restated, Mr Buhari has not ceased to disregard the procurement law.
The membership of the NCPP, according to the Act, should comprise 12 members to be appointed by the president.
While six of the members are government officials, the other six are drawn from relevant professional organisations. Those from the government side, considered permanent members, include the Minister of Finance, who serves as chairman, and the Director-General of the BPP as secretary.
Others are the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Head of Service, and the Economic Adviser to the President.
Those representing professional bodies are drawn from the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management, the Nigeria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mines and Agriculture, the Nigeria Society of Engineers, a representative of civil society organisations and that of the media.
The FEC comprises the president, the vice president, all the ministers and some presidential advisers, meaning the president and his political appointees who are all less likely to question his decisions.
Thus, the inability of the president to set up the NCPP has meant the FEC alone approves contracts to be executed by its members through their various offices and ministries.
The refusal of Mr Buhari to inaugurate the NCPP ”is a reflection of the poor governance history of many African countries,” commented former minister Obiageli Ezekwesili, speaking with PREMIUM TIMES for our December 2017 report on the disregard for the procurement law. “It has to do with the prioritisation; I mean the priority that the political class gives to transactions above vision, strategy and policy.”
Mrs Ezekwesili, who is the pioneer head of the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, had said: “Transactions provide the opportunity for corruption, so they will like to have much more control over that than give it up to some institutional mechanisms like the council.”
In his reaction, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Awwal Rafsanjani, said “it is unfortunate that the APC administration that came on the hope of fighting corruption and saving the country from total collapse has also joined the bandwagon in violating the law.”
Mr Rafsanjani said the Public Procurement Act 2007 is one of the “sunshine laws” established under the recommendation of the World Bank in 2001 to help in achieving transparency in the procurement process.
“Central to fighting corruption is the establishment of part one, section one of the Act, which is the establishment of the National Council on Public Procurement. This council has the responsibility, among others to translate efforts to sanitise the public sector by applying the content of the law in full.
“Former President Goodluck Jonathan was of course not interested in terms of ensuring that the council is inaugurated and that is how he ended up his tenure without getting that council inaugurated.
“The current government came with all sorts of motivation and encouragement that they want to fight corruption, but from what we are seeing, it is unfortunate that the government appears to have forgotten that one of the major things that they need to do to fight corruption is through public procurement. You can see the scandal now and then because of lack of compliance and adherence to the implementation of the Public Procurement Law in Nigeria,” he said.
Presidential spokespersons, Femi Adesina and Mr Shehu, could not be reached to comment on this report.
Mr Adesina did not answer repeated calls to his phone, while Mr Shehu’s line was not available on Tuesday night.