By Umar Muhammad Puma and Musa Adamu
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola has denied knowledge a contract worth N42 billion rural electrification projects allegedly awarded without following due process.
Fashola had been summoned to appear before the joint committees to explain the role of his Ministry in the N42 billion Rural Electrification projects allegedly awarded without following due process.
He was also asked to speak to the extent of implementation of the ‘Fast Power Programme’ and how benefiting institutions/zones were selected for project citing and implementation.
Attacking the issue of fraudulent award, Fashola noted that there was no fraud whatsoever, saying there was no such contract anywhere in his Ministry.
He said there was only an approval for the award of N38.9bn contracts and not N42bn, adding that under the Public Procurement Act, government was only obliged to pay 15percent of the sum involved in the rural electrification/Fast Power Programme contract.
“Getting that approval, we got N9bn. When I complained in 2017 about reduced allocation to the power Ministry, the chairman, Power said he reduced the budget, and when I asked why, he said “well, you can’t get everything that you want, and we laughed over it, and I said in 2018, we will expect an increase by which time you would have become a champion of this course”, Fashola said.
The minister in his expose had told lawmakers that when the Buhari administration came into being, there were so many contractors making claims of being owed by the past administration for jobs done.
He said the gentleman, one Ronald Van Arnult who now serves as consultant to the Power Committee was one of those owed by government.
“However, investigations revealed that there was no procurement for his contract and some others, but we couldn’t ask him to go away, having provided some evidence of work done, we had to reach an agreement to offer a base-sum, otherwise, government wasn’t going to pay.
“I said what I said because of the allegations against us that we’ve acted fraudulently, and I have cause to believe that the gentleman is now advising this Committee”, he said.
This information rattled lawmakers as the joint chairman, Hon. Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun), said he was hearing the information for the first time and urged the minister to continue.
While responding to Fashola’s statement that the consultant is an interested party in the matter under investigation and also benefited from illegal contract, Hon. Oke said “the Power Committee must have found it expedient to engage the services of the gentleman”.
He added that “an accused person in a court case can be used by the prosecutor as a prosecution witness to enable free flow of information for the prosecutors”.
Fashola noted that the hearing wasn’t necessary, adding that “a simple letter to the Ministry would have avoided all these”.
“I want to chose my words carefully, because I know that you have the power to investigate anything, but I think that a simple letter to us would have avoided all these, that’s my humble opinion”, he said.
On the issue of procedure regarding whether the project so awarded for Afam Power plant and the 9 Universities and Medical institutions selected for the Fast Power Programme, Fashola availed the panel with copies of Certificate of-No-Objection issued by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) in December 2016.
However, the same BPP had written the panel saying that it had no information on the Afam power project, contrary to what the Ministry had submitted.
In an effort to avert credibility crisis, chairman House Committee on Power, Hon. Dan Asuquo (PDP, Cross River) demanded that the BPP confirm the validity of the document presented by the minister.
Engr. Babtunde Kuye, Director Energy Procurement at the Bureau said that there was no contradiction, adding that the Bureau actually issued the Certificate of No-objection to the Ministry as shown by the minister.
Fashola also yesterday said the works sector would require N341 billion for projects in 2018.
He said this while defending the ministry’s 2018 budget proposals before members of the House of Representatives Committee on Works.
He said out of N325.9 billion earmarked as capital budget, the main ministry would gulp N288.3 billion while parastatals would need N37.6 billion.
According to Fashola, the budget proposal for the Federal Emergency Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) is N25.6 billion, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, N10.1 billion and Federal School of Surveying, Oyo, N450 million.