The central issue in that, with respect to the car procurement scandal, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, [NCAA], has put little or no verifiable information in the public domain to enable citizens verify its public expenditure processes.
For some reason, the NCAA does not appear in the 2013 Appropriation Act (nor does it appear in the Appropriation Act of 2012); their budget is therefore not open to public scrutiny like other public institutions. If the National Assembly approved the budget of the NCAA, why is it not reflected in the Appropriation Act like other MDAs within the aviation ministry?
The budget expenditure of the NCAA is supposed to be approved by the National Assembly and not the ministry of Aviation. If operational vehicles were needed, we should see it in the Appropriation Act; this is not listed in the Appropriation Act so again, how do we know that it is part of the approved budget? As far as we know, it is not.
Copies of the advertisements are needed to verify the claim that an expression of interest was indeed made. When was it advertised? In what Newspapers was it advertised? This information is not included in the response of the Honourable Minister of aviation.
Assuming that the NCAA sought authorization from the Ministry of Aviation who then sought approval from the appropriate quarters (NASS) so that due process was indeed followed, the advertisement would have to have been placed for at least six weeks if the default open competitive bidding method was adopted. However, the date for request of authorization and the date of the bid opening is barely six weeks .This suggests that there may have been a breach in the process and the only way to prove otherwise is by ensuring public access to these records.
Assuming that there has been no breach in due process so far and the procurement process is at the stage of recommending a preferred bidder, the threshold for the Parastatal tenders board is 2.50 million and above but not more than 50 million. For any goods above 100 million, then the BPP would need to issue a certificate of no objection. If the value of the vehicles is up to 100 million, then it certainly does not fall within the threshold of the Ministry.
Another important issue is that the NCAA’s generated revenue is not verifiable because it is not in the public domain. We do not need a three man committee to probe this case. What we really need is for all verifiable documents relating to this public expenditure to be placed in the public domain. Furthermore, this is an opportunity for audited reports of Federal MDAs to be accessible by the public.
As long as the internally generated revenue came from members of the public, then we ought to know how much is being generated. We also need to know the rate of interest that will be paid for the lease financing contract with the bank. We need to understand why the justification for getting the cars and why Coscharis emerged the preferred bidder. We need to know that it was a justifiable use of funds. All of this can be found in the procurement records which no one has seen. The documents that the public needs to see to verify these claims include:
- Evidence of budgetary allocation for the referred procurement process.
- The procurement plan for the procurement of the referred procurement.
- Evidence of advertisements for the bidding process in various media sources (newspapers, international publications, websites etc
- A list of all bids tendered on this project from when it was advertised till the closure of the bid advertisement
- Minutes of the bid opening meeting.
- Attendance list of all individuals and the organizations they represent at the bid opening
- The NEEDS assessment document if it is in a separate document from the procurement plan
- Standard bidding documents that were issued to all the bidder
- Documentation on the design and specification requirements that may not be contained in the standard bidding documents
- Documentation on the scope of the referred procurement processes.
- Copies of the minutes of bid evaluation meetings, records of bid evaluation, recommendation of bid evaluation committee and minutes of meeting to the Tenders Board awarding the contract to the successful companies
- A copy of the certificate of no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement
- Signed copies of letter of award and final contract award documents for the award of this contract
It would be a constant race to the bottom for Nigeria, if public expenditure information is not verifiable. There would be no incentive for contractors to compete towards offering better value; so the essence of non-disclosure in order to protect competition becomes its bane.
Nigerians and stakeholders must be able to verify details provided by public institutions in the media on public expenditure. There would be no trust, very little progress if information on public expenditure is not verifiable. It is time that Nigeria takes a stand towards transparency by making sure that all MDAs make public expenditure information available. Specifically, procurement plans should be readily available at the beginning of the year. Monthly revenue generated by MDAs should be made public at the end of each month. Audited reports should be accessible by the public. In practise, Nigeria has benefitted nothing from the existing secrecy. No more talkshops please. If anybody is interested in building Nigeria, then information on public expenditure should be put in the public space.
Ms. Seember Nyager, a procurement expert, is CEO at the Public and Private Development Centre, PPDC, in Abuja. She contributed this solicited article to help provide perspectives on the aviation car procurement scandal.