By Etuka Sunday
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has faulted the claims by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to revisit the allegations of corruption made against the privatisation agency by the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Investigation of the Privatisation and Commercialisation Activities of the BPE from 1999 to 2011.
BPE said, it is curious that SERAP would dredge up a six-year report and attempt to give it the air of infallibility. However, the Bureau would address issues raised in the report again just as it did six years ago when the report was first published. We again reject the conclusions of the report which may have been aimed at tainting the activities of the reform agency.
Recall that Muhammadu Buhari administration, on April 13, 2017, appointed a new Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Alex A. Okoh, with the broad mandate to address the challenges in the privatisation programme.
The current BPE has a new programme philosophy aimed at rediscovering its core values of transparency and integrity. This has resulted in the introduction of a raft of changes that are already addressing some of the gaps of the past and repositioning the Bureau towards a new vision of the future.
An exemplar of these changes is a robust corporate governance framework for the Bureau’s representation of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) on the Boards of enterprises in which the FGN retains shares, and a strict code of ethics that guides the rules of engagement with the enterprises.
A statement by the Head, Public Communications, BPE, Chukwuma Nwokoh said the Bureau is supremely confident that the comprehensive change programme put together by the current leadership will ensure a future of disciplined and responsible privatisation and an effective post-privatisation management regime that ensures that the objectives of the programme are pursued with courage and conviction and that the government and people of Nigeria are the ultimate beneficiaries.
The current Bureau of Public Enterprises has learned valuable lessons from the past and is confident that the future of the programme shall be better positioned.
On the issue of monitoring privatized entities, the BPE has routinely monitored the performance of privatised enterprises through its Post Privatisation Monitoring Department. The present monitoring framework was established in late 2006 and monitoring activities effectively took off in 2007.
In establishing the monitoring framework, BPE consulted widely and benefited from the expertise of a consultant provided by the Department for International Development (DFID), UK, under its support to the privatisation program.
The agency has moved further in its post-privatisation activities and strengthened its processes. BPE’s lock-in period has been strengthened such that, even at its expiry, a core investor that has not fulfilled its post-acquisition plan is not discharged from the mandatory monitoring programme. This development debunks the claims on post-privatisation by SERAP.
On the claim that the Senate Committee found that abuse of due process in the selection of core investor, valuation of public enterprises, appointment of consultants, pricing of shares/assets, determination of workers’ terminal benefits, establishment of proceeds accounts and use of proceeds, handing over of public enterprises and payments by core investors adversely affected the performance of privatised public enterprises, the statement is rather sweeping without making any specific references and denigrates and devalues the efforts of BPE to implement the government’s policy on privatization.
It would have been apt if SERAP had contacted the Bureau to be apprised of the latest developments in the privatisation agency and its activities. Our doors are still open to SERAP should they seek further information and enlightenment on the reform activities of the BPE.