A multi-billion naira case of corruption has been uncovered in the National Examinations Council, documents seen by SaharaReporters have shown.
The case involved the award of contracts without following due process by the past management of the examination council.
Those specifically accused of involvement in the corruption saga are the immediate past Acting Registrar of NECO, Abubakar Gana, his Special Assistant, one Ibrahim Peter Alih, as well as Chairman of the Governing Board of council, Dr Abubakar Sadeeq.
Also accused of having a hand in the corruption matter is the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Arc. Sonny T. Echono.(
Echono is precisely accused of providing tacit support for the officials of NECO to perpetrate corruption using his position as a very senior officer in the Ministry charged with the responsibility of supervising NECO.
A source told SaharaReporters that the indefinite suspension of the former Registrar, Prof Charles Uwakwe on May 10, 2018 provided Echono the opportunity to closely interfere in the procurement process of the examination council using Alih as his proxy.
The source said the Permanent Secretary and Sadeeq facilitated the appointment of Alih as the Special Assistant to Gana.
“The staff of NECO are now expressing disappointment with the fact that Echono and the Chairman of the Governing Board have equally imposed Alih on the new Registrar, Prof Godswill Obioma, thereby making it practically impossible for him to operate freely as the Chief Executive Officer of the council.
“Following series of petitions by some staff of NECO on the monumental act of corruption perpetrated by the Acting Registrar, the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit and the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation have launched massive investigations into the corruption in NECO, and Echono is also said to have been making overtures to the Auditor-General of the Federation and the Permanent Secretary (Special Duties) in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, who are his contemporaries/colleagues in the federal civil service and members of the Service Wide, to suppress the investigations. PICA is under the supervision of the Permanent Secretary (Special Duties).
“In the two years that he held sway as the Acting Registrar, Gana awarded contracts to companies recommended to him by the Permanent Secretary and Chairman of the governing board as well as those close to him in a blatant abuse of due process and all known extant laws and financial regulations.
“For instance, with the active support of the permanent secretary and the NECO Board Chairman, Gana refused to set up a Procurement Planning Committee after the dissolution of the one he inherited,” the source said.
SaharaReporters gathered that the former Acting Registrar also refused to advertise contracts in the Federal Tenders Journal and two national newspapers for competitive biddings to take place, as stipulated by the Public Procurement Act 2007.
Rather, he opted for Direct Procurement Method and Emergency Procurement Method, practices which NECO was not entitled to engage in.
This fact was stated by the Bureau of Public Procurement in its letter to NECO, dated July 30, 2019, with reference number BPP/S.1/SP/19/Vol.I/375.
In the letter, the BPE stated that by virtue of the preconditions listed in Sections 42 and 43 of the Public Procurement Act 2007, NECO has not been exempted from ensuring that the practice of bidding takes place before awarding contracts.
Gana, it was gathered single-handedly, approved contracts for the printing of sensitive, non-sensitive and ancillary materials, running into billions of naira, using the ‘Direct Procurement Method’ without regards to approval thresholds and without getting approvals from the Parastatal Tenders Board, Ministerial Tenders Board or the Federal Executive Council/Bureau of Public Procurement in a flagrant violation of the provisions of Sections 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
Consequently, these aberrations engaged in by NECO in its awards of contracts to the cost of projects executed by NECO from May 10, 2018, to May 21, 2020, have not met the requisite conditions, failed, in almost all cases, to fall in line with needs of the nation’s economy and did not provide value for money.
Our investigation revealed that in adopting ‘Direct Procurement Method,’ a government institution is supposed to award the entire contract to a single competent contractor, but Gana awarded and paid for contracts for the printing of May/June 2019 sensitive examination materials to six (six) companies, namely: Ramadan Press Ltd, Binani Printing Press, Yaliam Press Limited, Marvellous Mike Printing Press, Mercy Trust Nigeria Ltd and Aitech Investment Limited, while contracts for non-sensitive materials and ancillary materials were awarded to over 72 others. These contracts were awarded and paid for without obtaining the mandatory Due Process Certificate of ‘No Objection’ from the Bureau of Public Procurement and approval from the Federal Executive Council (FEC), thereby flouting the provisions of Section 16 (1), (2), (4), (5), (6) and (7) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
On June 28, 2019, Gana applied to the BPP via a letter backdated to February 5, 2019, with a curious reference number - FME/FTC/PROC/Vol.II/12 - seeking for special consideration to adopt ‘Direct Procurement Method’ and Due Process Certificate of ‘No Objection’ to award some of the May/June 2019 SSCE contracts which he had already awarded, executed and paid for.
Although the letter was said to be from NECO, the reference number (FME/FTC/PROC/Vol.II/12) is that of the Federal Ministry of Education, which gave credence to the allegation that the Permanent Secretary, who is the chief accounting officer of the ministry, was calling the shots as far as the issue of procurement in NECO was concerned.
Also curious is the discovery that from the NECO 2019 June/July SSCE timetable, it can be seen that the examinations were started on Monday, May 20, 2019, and ended on July 12, 2019. However, the contract letters awarded to Ramadan Press Limited (N308,748,642 million), Marvelous Mike Printing Press (N355,916,654 million), Yaliam Press Limited (N358,624,003 million), Binani Printing Press (N408,277,801 million), Mercy Trust Nigeria Ltd (N277,747,492 million), Kwality Printing and Packaging N54,584,705 million), Baumaster Project Ltd (N40,104,000), Descteck Universal Concept (N44,016,000 million), Jengade International Limited (N20,016,000 million), Jidadu Ventures Limted (15,000,000) and Kwality Printing and Packaging (N5,503,821 million) were all dated before and on May 20, 2019.
Expectedly, the BPP refused to grant the Due Process Certificate of ‘No Objection’ to adopt the Direct Procurement Method. Instead, in order not to be seen as frustrating a national examination, the BPP belatedly and strangely too, advised NECO, on July 30, 2019 (two weeks after completion of the exams), to try Emergency Procurement Method, by the provisions of Section 43 of the Public Procurement Act 2007, although NECO was still not qualified for that.
These shenanigans were repeated in the award of contracts for the printing of sensitive, non-sensitive and ancillary materials for conduct of the 2019 November/December SSCE by NECO.
The contracts were awarded to Ramadan Press Limited (N31,028,916 million), Marvelous Mike Printing Press (N40,255,708 million), Yaliam Press Limited (N39,567,717 million), Descteck Universal Concept (N21,600,000 million), Amsy Global Services Limited (N13,272,000) and Edokson Int’l Investment Limited (N36,059,310), among other companies.
Our findings showed further multiple illegalities perpetrated by Gana with the implicit support of the Permanent Secretary and the chairman of the Governing Board. These include award of contracts to companies disqualified by BPP.
In its letter to the National Examinations Council dated July 30, 2019, with reference number BPP/S.1/SP/19/Vol.I/375, the Bureau of Public Procurement ruled that the 78 companies submitted by NECO were unsuitable for executing government contracts because none of them had complete and valid mandatory requirements as stipulated by the Public Procurement Act 2007.
Despite the fact that the companies were adjudged by the BPP to be “not-responsive,’ and without obtaining approval from the Federal Executive Council as is the procedure, Gana awarded contracts to over 72 disqualified companies to print sensitive, non-sensitive and ancillary materials for the conduct of the June/July 2019 Senior Secondary School Examinations using the ‘Direct Procurement Method.’ He went ahead and approved full payment for the contracts in violation of the extant laws that require that procuring entities must obtain the mandatory Due Process Certificate of ‘No Objection’ from the BPP before award and payments for contracts.
Inflation of contracts
Insiders at NECO also revealed that in the absence of Procurement Planning Committee, Competitive Procurement Method and functional Parastatal Tenders Board, contracts for printing of all examination materials were inflated by the acting registrar.
The allegedly inflated contracts were awarded to the following companies: Ramadan Press Ltd, Marvelous Mike Printing Press, Yaliam Press Limited, Mercy Trust Nigeria Ltd, Binani Printing Press Ltd, Kwality Printing and Packaging, Baumaster Project Ltd, Edokson Intl Investment Ltd, Haske Hamas Concepts Ltd, Global Frontiers Nigeria Ltd, AITECH Investment, Barkin Zinariya Concept Limited, Samela International Oil and Gas Services Ltd, Alheri Suniya Intl. Ltd, Kai Tsaye Global Investment Ltd, FLEXISAF EDUSOFT Ltd, and Desk Teck Universal Concept.
For instance, with NECO November/December SSCE registration figures comparatively much lower than June/July SSCE registration in the ratio of 1:10, BPP approved a contract for the supply of Tamper Evidence Security Customized Polybags worth N87,595,200:00 to Messrs AITECH Investment for the conduct of 2018 June/July SSCE with over one million candidates.
Surprisingly, the Gana-led NECO also got BPP’s approval to award the same contract for the supply of same material to Marvellous Mike Press Ltd for the conduct of 2019 November/December SSCE with less than 100,000 candidates at the highly inflated cost of N94,320,000.00.
Realistically, we learnt the contract for that item for the 2019 November/December SSCE should be less than N10m because only about one hundred thousand candidates sat for the examination, compared with the 2018 June/July SSCE that had more than one million candidates.
It, therefore, can be said that the contract for the supply of security polybags for 2019 November/December SSCE awarded to Marvellous Mike Ltd at the cost of N94, 320,000.00 was inflated by not less than the sum of N84,320,000.00.
Also, in 2018, Samela International Oil & Gas Services Ltd supplied diesel and storage tank for N6m for processing of results of 2018 June/July SSCE that had over a million candidates.
Surprisingly, the same company was awarded a contract worth N18,600,000:00 for the supply of diesel only, to process the results of the 2019 November/December SSCE, which had less than 100,000 candidates.
Seemingly, NECO did not need even the N6m diesel to process the results of one million candidates in 40 days because the council and Federal University of Technology, Minna, were on a dedicated power line with steady power supply.
The ICT Department alone could not have consumed one-third of that amount; so obviously, the contract was inflated by more than N12, 000,000.00, and awarded to a firm already blacklisted by the BPP.
In 2018 June/July SSCE alone, credible records have shown that the actual contract amount awards for security printing of 2018 June/July SSCE were in excess of N181,735,435.45 of the approved amount by the BPP vide a letter with reference number BPP/RPT/18/Vol.I/529 dated June 10, 2019, and a letter with reference number BPP/S.1/Vol.XIV/18/282 dated June 10, 2019.
The difference between the actual approval granted and the existing contract awarded is shown in the table below.
From the three examples above, one can clearly see how the sum of N278,055.435.45 was siphoned by NECO officials.
One other inflated contract is the cleaning service which previously used to be awarded at the cost of N6m per month and is now being awarded at the cost of N8m per month, to an official of NECO.
SaharaReporters gathered that the Gana leadership of NECO split contracts for printing and supply of both sensitive and non-sensitive examination materials, against the provisions of Sections 20 (2) (e) and 58 (4) (d) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
For instance, the printing of essay answer booklets for all 2018 and 2019 NECO examinations was awarded to as many as 72 companies. Insiders explained that since the booklets are basically the same, huge savings could have been made by awarding such to fewer companies as the cost of printing diminish with an increasing number of quantities.
Use of Companies with Same Directors
Our investigations further revealed that the acting registrar awarded a contract to Messrs Marvellous Mike Press Limited, which had same directors with the following companies: Haske Hamas Nigeria Ltd, Barkin Zinariya Concept Ltd, Mercy trust Ltd, Alheri Suniya Intl. Ltd, Kai Tsaye Global Investment Ltd, Narkin Zinariya Concept Ltd, Nasali Enterprise Ltd, Duniya Kaya Nig. Ltd, against the provision of Section 16(8) (g) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
Similarly, Ramadan Press Ltd shared the same directors with Kwality Printing and Packaging Ltd; while Alheri Suniya Intl Ltd, and Kai Tsaye Global Investment Ltd, have the same directors.