The government of Kaduna State has denied media reports that it awarded contracts worth N3billion for the construction of drainages in major metropolitan centers in the state, but admitted irregularities in the award process.
The denial, a response to a story published by SaharaReporters alleging a contract bazaar, was made in a statement signed by Mr. Samuel Aruwan, Senior Special Assistant (Media) to Kaduna State governor, Mr. Nasir El-Rufai. According to the statement, the state government did not spend N3billion on the contracts and claimed that no contract was awarded to members of Mr. El-Rufai's family and senior officials of his administration, an assertion Saharareporters found to be false. Instead, the government claimed it arrested sharp practices observed by stopping the project, reviewing it and taking disciplinary actions against those responsible.
"Upon review of the state of the projects, the Kaduna State Government (KDSG) has not paid anything beyond the N119.2m Kaduna Public Works Agency (KAPWA) expended prior to the drainage project being suspended," the statement said. It added that through investigations initiated by the government, it was verified that a payments totaling N626million were further made.
The state government alleged that its efforts to reflate the local economy through massive public works executed in small lots have been used to scandalize it and prominent citizens of the state.
"Kaduna State is thorough about advertising its contracts. Its tenders are regularly published in national newspapers. In 2016, KDSG published 72 adverts for tenders and employment opportunities. Thus far, in 2017, we have advertised 19 tenders and vacancies. The default mode of the government is a rigorous insistence on open, competitive tendering. But not every contract meets the threshold for this. The Public Procurement Law of the state requires that only contracts above N5million be advertised," it said.
The government also claimed that no fronts were used to win contract bids, saying its investigations revealed that many of the names on the list have no connection to the drainage works.
"Many of the names are of non-existent people with surnames attached to them to justify the use of fronts by the same officials of KAPWA whose services have been dispensed with. Others that exist have denied knowledge of the contracts and the names of those they were supposed to have sponsored. The dismissed Assistant General Manager, who was the architect of the madness, was unable to produce evidence linking the so-called contracts to most of the names of existing and living persons," the statement further claimed.
While maintaining that it did not spend N3billion, as alleged, the government said it only stopped irregularities perpetrated by the agency handling it by dismissing the head of the said agency in January. It explained that KAPWA, a direct labour agency, is prohibited by law from awarding contracts, saying the issue of advertising contracts does not arise for KAPWA.
"The nature of the works were such that influential persons introduced members of the public to secure the works. And the identities of these sponsors were recorded as an additional guarantee that the contracts would be delivered by the beneficiaries. This is not the use of fronts. It is simply the energizing of the local economy through public works that were allotted to local companies," the government said.
It described as unfortunate the abuse of the process by the dismissed head of KAPWA, which it said added fictitious names or included names of known persons without their knowledge of and consent to the contracts listed against such names.
"This action and failure to substantiate many of the records led to his dismissal. The government would not have acted as such if its officials or relations were truly complicit in the madness," claimed Mr. Aruwan.
The government noted that the drainage works began in December and created jobs for traders in construction goods. But by the end of January, the governor discovered that something was wrong and ordered a probe of the process.
It argued that if there was self-interest on the part of government officials, the project would not have been halted. The investigation allegedly revealed that the then management of KAPWA went out of its lawful bounds and had potentially committed the state to a bigger than intended liability.
"Disciplinary action followed the investigation, in February 2017, the government fired Hayatudeen Lawal Makarfi, the acting AGM of KAPWA, for this and ordered a holistic review of the drainage works. During the investigation, the sacked AGM was unable to provide any documentary evidence of valid contracts, the technical justification and links to the persons he named as having introduced the individuals and companies purportedly engaged," added the statement.
The investigation also allegedly revealed that the dismissed AGM did not comply with the 16-step process he was given to guide the road maintenance and drainage projects, a reason for the government's decision to send a bill to the legislature for the abolishment of KAPWA.
SaharaReporters found that the list of relatives of the governor included in the contracts scam was valid, our findings revealed the involvement of Musa Yola, the younger brother of the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari who reportedly took the drainage contract through four front companies and did a shoddy job.