Lets discuss about a unique kind of CORRUPTION in Nigeria!
How can our government officials/politicians steal public funds without being detected? Why is it difficult for our courts to indict them? How has corruption become official in Nigeria?
In government cycle, there is what we call public procurement process. This simply means, the manner in which government awards contracts. You can Google that to learn more.
Presently, in Nigeria we have a defective public procurement process that allows our government officials inflate public contracts to as high as 35% of the entire contract sum. In other words, if Gov. Nyesom Wike, Gov. Ambode or Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa awards a contract of lets say, a one hundred million Naira, for a primary school construction. There is a possibility that over 35% (which is 35million Naira) of this hundred million will be shared amongst the government officials involved in this project. 35% is not a benchmark, some states collect 25%, others 15%, the least is most times 10%! This practice is rampant in virtually all states of the federation, including the federal government (although there is Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) at this level, but it has no control over all procurement activities) and federal ministries, commissions, parastatals, etc. Some commissions like NDDC, DESOPADEC, etc do not work with percentage, they simply sell these contracts which amounts to the same thing as percentage. In most government award-of-contract process, lowest bidder is not the criteria to get a contract! Sometimes they just award contracts to fulfill budget requirement righteousness, pay upfront for the contract and even refuse to execute the contract. You will be amazed that many uncompleted projects in our states have been 100% paid for without 100% execution.
Many Nigerians get excited when the government execute such projects as newly constructed schools, roads, health centers and other government funded projects which they tag as developmental projects. They get excited over what they perceive as a performing government carrying out its corporate responsibilities. But they are ignorant of the fact that public funds cannot disappear in a vacuum, it has to be accounted for; therefore contracts must be awarded to make the stealing legal and official. Yet, the people only wish that more of such projects can be executed; they fail to understand that with a defective procurement process in place, the more projects a government executes under this abnormal process; the more kickbacks its officials receive, the more money is stolen, the more corruption is patronized. In fact, under our present abnormal procurement process, the more project a government executes, the more money its officials steal through each contract inflation and kickbacks. If we therefore do not fix our public procurement lapses; stealing through contract inflation and kickbacks will become an inevitable and official act of corruption as it has seemingly already become! Imagine how many contracts are awarded in a year!
In other words, under a defective procurement system, when next your state government builds a monorail or a model school or health care center or buy stoves or even build a stadium, do not completely clap for them that they have done well. Why? Because they just stole 10%, 25%, 35% of your money by building such projects!
Until we fix our public procurement process in the states and federal government, corruption through contract inflation and bloating will remain an official way of stealing Nigeria’s commonwealth without it being detected.
Funny enough, the only way we Nigerians and even our Nigerian governments rate their performance is to show how many projects it has executed. Yet, nobody is asking about the processes through which these projects are awarded and executed. Once we fix this kind of corruption, we will have achieved a major milestone in the anti-corruption fight.
How do we build an effective public procurement process and fight this type of corruption? How do we get a fair value for every contract our government awards? How do we ensure that at least six in every ten qualified contractors get a job to execute even without knowing anyone in government? How do we establish a transparent and accountable procurement process?
Until we fix this problem, our state Governors and top government officials will continue to decide who gets what contract and at what rate and which contract should be paid for and which is more important than the other. I believe this was what President Obama meant when he said Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men.
How do we build these institutions?