Peoples Digest Online- The House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement has summoned the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun over the alleged violation of the law in the engagement of consultants for pre-shipment inspection and monitoring of crude oil and gas exports from the country. Adeosun and the permanent secretary in her ministry are to appear before the committee led by Wole Oke by 10:00 a.m. today in the two-day investigative hearing on the issue at the National Assembly in Abuja. Activities in the oil and gas sector are reportedly bogged down by a lack of transparency. The probe, if efficiently carried out, may be another measure at checking corruption in the industry.
Members of the committee who condemned the absence of the minister were further incensed after the Director of Legal Services in the ministry, Christopher Gabriel said he was not prepared to make submission on behalf of the ministry. Oke, who grilled the Director General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Mamman Ahmad over the non-adherence to the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari on due process, wondered why the bureau failed to carry out due diligence in the evaluation. He particularly accused the BPP of abdicating its responsibilities to verify claims of bidders who were allegedly ranked prequalified fraudulently in a bid to mislead the ministry.
The BPP boss, who disclosed that the prequalification process had been completed and the report sent to the finance ministry, insisted that outfits picked industry practitioners based on security reports and available information. Oke wondered why the Ministry of Finance decided to delve into the affairs of the petroleum ministry, and queried the BPP boss for not adhering to the rule of open competitive bidding as specified by the PPA Act.
A member of the committee, Ossai Nicholas Ossai, drew the attention of the BPP boss to how three of the firms, including Trobell International Limited owned by an individual that evaded the payment of taxes, were picked and tasked with both the inspection and monitoring of oil exports from the country. An attempt by the Managing Director of Trobell, Thomas Sedi, who was at the investigative hearing, to distance his outfit from such infractions failed as Oke confronted him with evidence that his outfit evaded tax since it under-declared a ridiculous amount of a turnover of N795,000.00 which was a clear aberration.
Oke, who lamented that the BPP sidelined duly qualified firms in the polity, said the committee would refer the issue involving Trobell to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the police, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), and the Department of State Services (DSS) to unearth the level of breaches involving the pre-qualified firms. The Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), Anthony Mkpe Ayime, who testified before the lawmakers said he was not in the know of the entire prequalification exercise.