-I am innocent, Shittu says
The Minister of Communications Barrister Abduraheem Adebayo Shittu is enmeshed in a web of multiple contracts scandal involving millions of naira, a document seen by Daily Trust has shown. But the minister said “my hands are very clean”.
In the document titled 1st and 2nd Audit Inspection Report on Federal Ministry of Communications Technology, January to June 2018, it was stated that many contracts awarded within the period were either inflated, abandoned after payment or that irregular payments were made concerning them. The report also said some of the contracts were awarded to companies where some of the ministry’s officials or their friends and loyalists have interests.
It also said some officials colluded with Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) officials to review some of the contracts upward. The report found that a contract for the construction of an Incubation Hub in Ibadan awarded to Delimit Nigeria Limited and SS Energy Nigeria Limited at N300m, but the job was abandoned. A Personal Assistant of the minister, who has interest in one of the companies, allegedly ensured the money was paid, and thereafter resigned his appointment with the minister.
The report also indicted a director in the ministry who has interest in a company which got paid the sum of N90m to establish an ICT data bank within the ministry, but nothing was done. A “needless and whooping increase” of N14.1m was “fraudulently” made by Livial Soft Tech Limited, a company where Shittu is said to have interest, in the contract it got to supply, install and commission mobile monitoring equipment and national spectrum management system.
The original contract sum was N303m but “fraudulently” jerked up to N317.2 by the ministry’s officials in collusion with some officials of BPP. The contract was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on March 22, 2017 and was supposed to be completed within 10 months, the report said. But the report said the contract has yet to be completed, even after part payment had been made. It said paid vouchers as part payment to Livia Soft Technologies for the project were not entered into the ministry’s main cash and vote expenditure books in violation of Financial Regulation.
It also said the procurement process for the main contract was not properly conducted and therefore excluded the most competent Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) around the world. The report recommended that the total payment of N197.7m already made to Livia Soft Technologies for the complementary OEM equipment be recovered immediately. It also recommended that further payment to the company stopped to allow for further investigation.
The audit report also found out another irregular payment of N59.6m which was raised on voucher number FMCT/CAP/277/18 dated April 4, 2018 in favour of Advance Global Resources limited. This is in respect of the contract award for the Capacity Development and Capacity Building on (e-learning) for 250 unemployed people in Ogbomosho South/North and Orire Local Government of Areas of Oyo state. “In the cause of audit examination of relevant procurement and financial documents, the following observations were made:
Policy files containing minutes and approvals of members of Tender Board on contract sum not presented. Details on the 250 numbers of the unemployed persons were not produced, e.g types of software packages trained on, financial implication per person, location of training and report on the outcome of training etc. Breakdown on how the sum of N59.6m was expended on the 250 unemployed persons via capacity development were not produced for audit,” the report said.
The audit report also indicted the ministry on the irregular payment of N40.26m on voucher number FMCT/CAP/375/2018 dated May 10, 2018 on the contract awarded to E-D Multi Consult Design Limited to equip an e-learning centre in Ibadan West, Oyo state. The report also noticed other irregularities in the payment of federal government ICT projects in Nsukka, Enugu State, Kastina State and in the Ministry of Trade and Investments among others.
But speaking with Daily Trust in his office, Barrister Shittu said he knows “nothing about the irregular payments and inflation of contracts. I don’t know anything about all these. I don’t have interest in any of the companies; I know nothing except this ICT plan. “What I can remember is the company that supplied our frequency monitoring equipment, and I know they had taken the job before I even came up, so it’s not possible for me to have interest in them.
“I try as much as I can to be another Buhari in terms of being incorrupt.” When told some of his aides and staffs might have been involved, the minister said he would have to be sure they did before he would know what to say. “I don’t listen to ‘them say’; I try to be sure and certain of anything before acting on it. I welcome anybody who has information to go places: To EFCC, to ICPC. I don’t have anything to hide,” he said.