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PRODA boss under attack over alleged infractions *Academic staff protest

By Editor on 13th Sep 2021

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For allegedly disregarding the directives of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) Acting Director General of Projects Development Institute (PRODA) Enugu, Dr. Fabian Okonkwo has come under serious attacks by stakeholders who see his attitude as an affront to constituted authorities.

The PRODA helmsman is particularly being assailed over his alleged failure to follow due process in the procurement matters relating to award of contracts, staff engagement and implementation of audit report, according to THISDAY.

Also, there was an alleged disregard of the acting director general of the Institute to flout instructions by BPP to pay contractors that had their contracts fully performed in accordance with the terms of their contract agreement so long as such contracts met the specifications and certificated from the appropriate authorities indicating the completion of such contracts.

One of the stakeholders raising dust include the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutes (ASURI), the union of all the academic staff of research institutions such as PRODA, which is accusing Okonkwo of insubordination culminating into criminal, unethical, extortion and unpatriotic activities of the PRODA management.

Speaking to THISDAY, the Union’s National Secretary, Dr. Theophilous Ndubuaku expressed dismay over the purported sacking and suspension of some of their members in the procurement department for standing that due process must be followed in the award of contracts.

He recalled that during the public hearing with the House of Representatives which lasted for three days on February 18, 24 and 25, 2021 members had instructed the PRODA boss not to cancel any contract that had been awarded that passed through due approval from BPP and to recall all procurement officers suspended or sacked without due process to continue to perform their functions.

Ndubuaku reiterated the need for the BPP and the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology which is the supervising ministry to relieve the Board Chairman of PRODA, Daniel Onje of his duties for overstaying the required three years statutory tenure as stipulated by the Act establishing the institute.

Stating that Onje was suspended alongside Dr. Agulana who was the substantive director general which brought Okonkwo, he regretted that the new helmsman was still taking instructions from the suspended chairman whose three years tenure was supposed to end by March 2021, adding that Onje told the National Assembly that Okonkwo deceived them (Board) that the BPP approved the cancellation of the contracts.

In a BPP 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 contracts did not conform with or cannot be supported by any provisions of the public procurement act, 2007.

The document read: “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.”

Investigation indicated that Okonkwo was mandated to commence the recovering of some substantial amount of money paid to the firms under the nullified/cancelled contracts, and was also required to comply with the Bureau’s directive or else face the full weight of the law establishing the institution.

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”.

In line with established protocols, a memo from the Federal Ministry of Science of Technology dated March 22, 2021 with Ref No. FMST/PD/541/2020/1/196 and signed by the Director (Procurement), Mr. O.L. Oyadoye consequently enjoined the acting director general of PRODA to comply with the Bureau’s decisions and directives in line with the provisions of section 20 of the public procurement act, 2007 which bestows the Accounting Officer/Director General of an agency the overall responsibility of ensuring compliance with the PPA, 2007.

It was gathered that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on September 10, 2021 arrested the acting director general of PRODA, Dr. Okonkwo for questioning on the allegations bothering on financial irregularities, abuse of office, unethical extortion, etc. He was later released as further investigations are being carried.

THISDAY reported that its efforts through telephone calls to speak with the PRODA boss on the allegations, failed as the paper was told that he was tired and could not talk further, while other effort made to engage him on the phone was not possible as it rang severally without him picking the calls.




Posted on September, 13 2021

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