The acting Director-General of the Projects Development Institute (PRODA) Enugu, Fabian Okonkwo, has allegedly ignored directives by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to implement the institute’s audit report.

The BPP had made the directive to the acting DG following his inability to follow due process in the procurement matters relating to the award of contracts, staff engagement and implementation of the audit report.

Also, it was alleged that Okonkwo flouted instructions by the 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.

The House of Representatives had on February 10, 2021, resolved to investigate the alleged mismanagement of the institute. The move was based on a motion of urgent public importance moved by the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Henry Nwawuba.

Meanwhile, the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutes (ASURI), the union of all the academic staff of research institutions including PRODA, has accused that the acting director-general of the institute of insubordination culminating into criminal, unethical, extortion and unpatriotic activities of the PRODA management.

In a chat with newsmen, ASURI's National Secretary, Theophilous Ndubuaku lamented the purported sacking and suspension of some of their members in the procurement department over their insistence that due process must be followed in the award of contracts.

Ndubuaku recalled that during the public hearing with the House of Representatives in February 2021, the House of Representatives instructed the acting director-general of PRODA not to cancel any awarded contract that passed through due approval from BPP.

The house had also instructed the acting director-general to recall all procurement officers suspended or sacked, without due process, to continue to perform their functions.

Ndubuaku also 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.

According to him, Onje was suspended alongside Agulana, the substantive director general. However, it was alleged that Okonkwo was still taking instructions from the suspended chairman whose three years tenure was supposed to end by March 2021.

Onje had claimed 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 contract does not conform with or cannot be supported by any provisions of the public procurement act, 2007.

“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”, the document stated.

Investigation indicated that the acting director-general of PRODA, 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 invited the acting director-general of PRODA, Okonkwo for questioning for allegations bothering on financial irregularities, abuse of office, unethical extortion, etc. He was later released as further investigations are being carried.

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