The Senate has sustained a query issued against the National Examination Council (NECO) by the Auditor-General for the Federation (AuGF), for allegedly awarding ₦6.5 billion contracts without following due process.
The query is contained in the AuGF 2017 report already being considered by the Senate Public Accounts Committee (SPAC).
The contracts, according to the AuGF, involved the printing of security and non-security documents by the examination body.
The Chairman of SPAC, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, while sustaining the query at the sitting of the panel on Thursday, said the NECO management did not sufficiently defend the contract award process.
The AuGF report had also indicated that the agency was unable to present relevant records to show that approval was granted for the contract by the Ministerial Tenders Board in the first contract totalling ₦451 million.
In the second contract which is about ₦6.1 billion, the AuGF said quotations were not collected from three bidders as required by the Public Procurement Act 2007.
It also stated that taxes were not deducted from some of the contract payments.
The report partly read, “Taxes were not deducted from some of the contract payments.
“There was no technical and financial evaluation. Evidence of placement of advertisement was not attached to either payment vouchers or contract files.
“The amount expended was above the threshold of the Council and the contracts were split as some contracts were awarded to the same contractor with LPO and work order issued on the same date.
“Examination of records and documents revealed that the Commission’s Tenders Board approved the award of contract for the printing of security materials in the sum of ₦451 million to a company in March 2017 in contravention of provisions of Federal Government Circular No.SGF/OP/I/S.3/XI/849 of 16th January 2016.
“The Circular reiterated the approved revised thresholds for service-wide application, for which the parastatal tender board can only exercise authority on works whose value is less than ₦250 million while any sum above this, is to be referred to the Ministerial Tenders Board for approval.
“We sought for the authority for the above approval including the ministerial approval but none was provided.
“The above unilateral award of contracts without following due process may lead to awarding contracts to unqualified contractors.”
The AuGF, therefore, recommended that “the Registrar/CEO (of NECO) should be sanctioned in line with provisions of Financial Regulation 3117.”
The NECO’s Registrar/CEO, Prof. Godswill Obioma in his response before the Committee on the issue of N461 million said, “These are payments to Data Science Nigeria Limited for the supply of Optical Mark Readers for objectives questions paper for various examinations conducted by the Council.”
The committee sustained the queries on the grounds that NECO could not provide evidence of approval from the Ministerial Tenders Board before awarding contracts beyond its threshold.
The second query read, “Examination of contracts awarded for the printing of Security and Non- Security Documents valued at ₦6,166,405,407.42 revealed that the contracts were awarded without compliance with the provisions of PART VI, Section 24 (I) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 as amended.
“The PPA Act states that except as provided by this Act, all procurements of goods and works by all procuring entities shall be conducted by open competitive bidding.
“The following irregularities were also noted: Quotations were not collected from three bidders as required by PPA 2007, taxes were not deducted from some of the contract payments, there was no technical and financial evaluation.
“Others are, Evidence of placement of advertisement was not attached to either payment vouchers or contract files while the amount expended was above the threshold of the Council.
“The contracts were split as some contracts were awarded to same contractor with LPO and work order issued on the same date.”
Also in his response to the ₦6.1 billion query, the Registrar said, “The contracts for the printing of our questions are awarded through selective tendering.
“This is the case to avoid leakages of our examinations and award of contract to printers of doubted integrity.”