New Telegraph

Nasarawa: How Sule curbed leakages

CHEKE EMMANUEL examines how Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State has demonstrated the political will to address challenges of the state, especially the recent establishment of the Bureau of Public Procurement to ensure that contracts are bided for publicly and in a transparent manner

During his inauguration speech on May 29, 2019, at the Lafia Square, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State promised to be prudent, accountable and transparent in managing resources of the state. No sooner than the governor had settled down in office, that he discovered that he may not achieve his set goal, so he initiated an executive bill for the establishment of the Nasarawa State Bureau of Public Procurement to perfect a legal instrument to achieve his target.

To the governor, the state can no longer continue with a situation where financial transactions are carried out without adherence to due process and in accordance with best practices, especially in the award of contracts and procurement of goods and services for and on behalf of the state government.

In order to actualize his good intentions for the overall development of the state, Governor Sule wated no time in demonstrating a genuine political will by initiating and sending the Nasarawa State Bureau of Public Procurement Bill to the state House of Assembly for consideration and approval.

Upon the receipt of the bill and envisaging its positive impact on the development of the state when established, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Ibrahim Balarabe Abdullahi, convincingly introduced the executive bill before lawmakers during plenary and having perused through the document and okayed the contents, the bill scaled through second reading before the lawmakers proceeded on a recess.

Given the importance of the bill to the overall development of the state, the lawmakers had to cut short their recess precisely on December 31, 2019, to sit at plenary for the second reading of the bill during which the House’s deputy majority leader, Hon. Daniel Ogah Ogazi moved the motion for the scaling of the bill for Third reading after deliberations. As expected, the House passed the bill into law, having received the overwhelming support of the lawmakers during deliberations on the bill.

Speaking during the passage of the bill, the speaker, Abdullahi, said the bill, if assented to by the governor, would ensure transparency and accountability in the purchase of goods and services by the state government. He added that the bill would also ensure equitable distribution of resources amongst the ministries, departments and agencies in the state. At the moment, the state government has successfully established the Nasarawa State Bureau for Public Procurement under the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.

Governor Sule allocated the old deputy governor’s Lodge at the project quarters in Lafia, the state capital, which was laying waste to the bureau and had since renovated the edifice, furnished it and operation commenced. With the establishment of the procurement bureau, all financial transactions, especially award of contracts would now be done online via e-procurement to ensure transparency and job quality.

This development has placed Governor Sule above his predecessors as many say that he has not only exceeded expectations by establishing the bureau but coming up with of other measures to block leakages as he promised during his inaugural address.

When it came to appointment of who heads the bureau to achieve the ultimate objectives of establishing it and to achieve his good intentions, the governor wisely appointed a technocrat with vast experience in public administration, Dr. Dominic Bako, as the pioneer Director General of the bureau.

A one-time permanent secretary, former commissioner of Finance and one-time Head of Service (HOC) in the state, Dr. Bako is said to possess vast knowledge and experience in public service. This informed why he was described by many as “the best man for the job.” Bako, who recently sworn-in alongside other appointees by Governor Sule, has carefully designed a working document in line with the mandate of the bureau to hit the ground running.

The document is aimed at achieving the objectives for the establishment of the bureau as encapsulated in the vision of the administration of Governor Sule. Speaking at the event, Sule said that the establishment of the bureau will enhance due process, transparency and accountability in governance. He added that with the establishment of the public procurement bureau, it is not going to be business as usual again as according to him, his administration has zero tolerance for corruption. He, therefore, charged the bureau to ensure strict adherence to public procurement process.

Meanwhile, in order to carry along other segments of the society in the procurement process, the Director General of the bureau, wasted no time to organize a seminar for Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) to acquaint them on how to access contracts from government in line with due process.

He said gone were the days when public procurement and award of contracts by government were carried out without due process. Insisting that time has come for the right thing to be done, he said all contracts would be awarded to only credible contractors, particularly to those with proven records of integrity and excellent job performance. Speaking in an interview after the flag-off of the training programme of 200 SMEs by the state bureau held recently at the conference hall of the State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, the state Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Planning, Mr. Haruna Ogbole said: “Covid-19 has ravaged the whole world and Nasarawa State is not an exception.

So, it became necessary for the Nasarawa State Public Procurement Bureau to organize a sensitization seminar for the Small and Medium Entrepreneurs “SMEs are the ones that boost the economy because they are also employers of labour.

Therefore, the state deemed it very necessary to engage them so that they can be sensitized and can also be involved in accessing petty contracts in government. They can assess up to N25 million contracts to improve the economy of the state as a result of the multiplier effect of such jobs on the society. ‘’We are supposed to train about 200 SMEs but for now we are taking about 100 SMEs in this first phase of the training. In the second phase, we will also train 100 SMEs but in total we are supposed to train about 200 SMEs in the state. This training is for them to learn the processes of assessing contracts in the state through the Public Procurement Bureau.”

Dr. Bako, in an interview with journalists shortly after the opening ceremony of the sensitization programme, said: “Just like the commissioner for Finance, Budget and Planning declared the position of the governor; that is the position. First of all, we thank God for the establishment of the bureau.

So much has happened in the state since inception; we are about taking off fully now and we are going to create a database as we have discovered that not just the SMEs but most of the contractors that were given contracts in the past are quacks.”

He added: “Some of them just have letter-headed papers and there is nothing on ground. So, the governor has directed that we should have a comprehensive list of contractors that have capacity and these SMEs have the capacity and not the civil servants that come for contracts.

So, we are going to get a list of all contractors and open a corporate account for SMEs that are fully registered as the law provides that the SMEs also partake in the development of the economy and the SMEs have the capacity to do that. “Government is supposed to create the enabling environment and just as I said, most contractors that won big contracts in the state are not from the state and they don’t invest here but whatever the locals make from contracts, they can invest here and you know that the SMEs are the ones that grow the economy.

That is why we are trying to give them priority by showing them processes of assessing contracts and other opportunities. Once they are registered in line with the guidelines, government is going to carry them along.’’

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