The Senate Public Accounts Committee has commenced a probe into alleged irregularities in the award of N7.5billion contract for shore erosion control work at Akipelai, Ayakoro and Otuoke, Bayelsa State.
The SPAC, chaired by Senator Matthew Urhoghide, based its investigation on the 2017 report of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) submitted to the Senate for consideration.
The contract was said to have been awarded in March 2012 with a 14-month completion period.
But, as of November 2015, the sum of N4.2billion had been paid to the contractor which represents 56.61 per cent of the contract sum.
However, the AuGF noted that a review of the Bill of Quantities (BOGs) revealed that a mobilisation fee of N1.1billion paid to the contractor, was supported by a conditional bank guarantee from Zenith Bank Plc with validity for 365 days which expired on March 2, 2013.
This, it said, was contrary to the provision of section 35 (1) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and Financial Regulations 2933 (1), (2009) which only provide for submission of an unconditional bank guarantee or insurance bond.
But, NPA in a written response to the allegations, claimed that enbloc recovery of mobilisation fee may create a financial strain to the project, hence the need to recover the fee piecemeal.
Also, it was revealed that the sum of N19.5 million was paid for Toyota Hilux double cabin petrol engine vehicles however, there was no evidence to confirm that these vehicles were purchased.
But the NPA in its response to the allegation claimed that the Toyota Hilux vehicles were purchased.
In another observation by the AuGF in the report, the sum of N128million provided for insurance against damages to persons and properties was certified and paid through certificate No-3 with no evidence that any insurance was undertaken.
But, NPA in its response said: “Noted for future compliance. Payment for insurance of the works was carried out by the contractor as required to the tune of the approved amount.
“The particulars of the insurance are usually retained by the contractor.”
In addition, an interim valuation certificate No. 4, dated November 11, 2015, showed that the value of work executed as at the period was N3.9billion representing 52.07 per cent.
But, the total amount paid to the contractor was N4.2 billion representing 56.61 per cent of the contract sum which implies that the contractor was paid more than the work executed by N344million.
The AuGF’s query reads: “A contract for Shore Erosion Control Works at Akipelai, Ayakoro and Otuoke towns in Bayelsa State was awarded at a contract sum of N7,503,344,599.00, vide award letter Ref. No.: HQ/GME/CP/CON/R.16/067 dated 22nd March, 2012, with 14 months completion period.
“As at 11th November 2015, four payment certificates and an advance payment totalling N4,247,938,353.26 representing 56.61% of the contract sum, had been paid to the contractor.
“Review of documents and the Bill of Quantities (BOQs) under Bill No. 1 (General) attached to these payments revealed that:
“Mobilization fee of N1,125,501,659.85, paid to the contractor, was supported by a conditional bank guarantee from Zenith Bank Plc with a validity period of 365 days which expired on the March, 2, 2013, contrary to the provisions of Section 35 (1a) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and Financial Regulations 2933 (1), (2009) which only provide for submission of an unconditional bank guarantee or insurance bond.
“More than four years after the expiration of the bank guarantee, the contractor failed to renew it and the balance of unrecovered advance payment stood at N539,452,959.95.
“The sum of N19.5million was paid for the purchase of three Toyota Hilux double cabin petrol engine vehicles, however, there was no evidence to confirm that these vehicles were purchased.
“The sum of N13.5million was paid for the annual running cost of the project vehicles, in which N6.75million was certified and paid to the contractor, but there was no evidence to show what the amount was used for.
“The sum of N11.25million certified for compensation of properties to be affected by the project and paid in Certificate No. 3, had no records on how the money was utilized nor the beneficiaries involved.
“The N12.5million provided for Community Relations was certified and paid vide Certificate No. 3 with no supporting documents to validate the payment.
“The N128million provided for insurance of the works against damages to persons and properties, was certified and paid through Certificate No. 3 with no evidence that any insurance policy was undertaken.
“The Principal Manager’s report on Interim Valuation Certificate No. 4 dated 11th November 2015 showed that the value of works executed as at the period was N3,903,668,868.75 representing 52.07 per cent of the contract sum.
“However, the total payment made to the contractor was N4,247,938,353.26, representing 56.61 per cent of the contract sum.
“This implies that the contractor was paid more than the work executed by N344,269,484.51.
“During an inspection of the project, it was revealed that the contractor had since abandoned the project site and the duration of the project had since lapsed without approval for its extension.”
NPA is expected to appear before the Committee to make an oral presentation of its response to the queries.
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