The Senate Public Accounts Committee is set to investigate how the Federal Ministry of Information spent N461.9 million on the Federal Government Printing Press (FGP) in Abuja, without completing the project.
The Chairman of the Committee, Ahmed Lawan, announced this on Thursday during an oversight visit of members of the Committee to the project site in Asokoro District, Abuja.
Mr. Lawan expressed dismay that the access road to the Printing Press had not been completed contrary to a report by the Ministry, which said that N18 million was spent on it.
“I am sad because public funds have been tied here for a very long time. This project started in 2001 and perhaps should have been completed in three or four years.
“We are in 2012, almost eleven years with the project at 60 per cent to 70 per cent completion and that is to say public fund was not properly utilised,” he said.
In exercise of its oversight function, the Committee Chairman invited officials of the Ministry familiar with the project; contractors and consultants to appear before a public hearing at a date to be announced later.
Mr. Lawan told Aliyu Gusau, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, to appear “with all individual officers in the ministry who have anything to do with this project.”
“By the time we go for the hearing and it appears the ministry has nothing to say, we are going to indict the ministry and that is not what we want to do.
“We want this project to be completed for the benefit of all Nigerians because we have tied so much money here,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the public hearing on the printing press will be the second in three months.
Officials of the ministry had appeared before the Committee on Nov. 30, 2011, to answer queries on the execution of the project.
However, the Committee deferred resolutions on some of the queries because answers provided by the ministry officials were not satisfactory.
Mr. Gusau told reporters that it was “unfortunate” that over the years nothing much had been done in spite of the huge expenditure on the project.
“If you have come here a few months back, you would not be able to enter here because it was full of snakes and weeds.
“We have to clear here, wash it and try to energise it (electricity) and provide security,” he said.
Mr. Gusau partly blamed the delay in the completion of the project to lack of budgetary allocation.
“There was a period when there was no budgetary allocation for the project.
“For instance, when I came to the Federal Ministry of Information in September 2011, the allocation for the project in 2011 was N22 million, with that I don’t think one can achieve anything,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary put the current cost of completing the project at about N1 billion.
Documents from the Information Ministry showed that the contract for the construction of the press was awarded to M/s DTV& Co. Ltd on July 12, 2001 at the cost of N351.6 million, with a completion period of 12 months.
In 2005 the Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development was invited to take over the supervision of the project from the Consultants, Aims Consultants.
Gascome (Nigeria) Limited was awarded a N112.6 million contract for the procurement and installation of the equipment for the project in 2005.
Similarly, Heiselberg Nigeria Limited was awarded N99.2 million contract for the procurement and installation of equipment for the press in 2005.