The Kaduna State Government rejects the narrative that Sahara Reporters has woven around the execution of drainage works in the major metropolitan centres of our state. There was no contract bazaar. Neither was N3bn spent on the drainage works.
Malam Nasir El-Rufai, his family and senior officials of this government are not involved in sharing contracts or using fronts. Rather, the KDSG stepped in to stop one of its agencies going rogue on the drainage works, stopped the project, reviewed it and took disciplinary action.
Upon review of the state of the projects, KDSG has not paid anything beyond the N119.2m KAPWA expended prior to the drainage project being suspended. Investigations have verified further outstanding payments of N626m.
It is regrettable that the actions that were taken to prime our local economy through massive public works executed in small lots, and drawing in many of our citizens is now being used to scandalize the government and prominent citizens.
Kaduna State is thorough about advertising its contracts. Its tenders are regularly published in national newspapers. In 2016, KDSG published 72 adverts for tenders and employment opportunities. Thus far, in 2017, we have advertised 19 tenders and vacancies. The default mode for the government is a rigorous insistence on open, competitive tendering. But not every contract meets the threshold for this. The Public Procurement Law of the state requires that only contracts above N5m be advertised.
The government of Kaduna State and its leadership do not use fronts or engage in violations of its public procurement regulations. Sahara Reporters is being unduly sensational. In alleging the use of fronts, it obviously escaped the blog to interrogate if anybody that intends to use fronts would actually put down their names or offices next to the contracts. Even for a blog that claims that it is not bound by the journalistic obligation to verify its assertions, this is unfortunate.
KDSG investigations revealed that many of the names on the list have no connection to the drainage works. Many of the names are of non-existent people with surnames attached to them to justify the use of fronts by the same officials of KAPWA whose services have been dispensed with. Others that exist have denied knowledge of the contracts and the names of those they were supposed to have sponsored. The dismissed AGM who was the architect of the madness was unable to produce evidence linking the so-called contracts to most of the names of existing and living persons.
KDSG supports investigative journalism because it can throw so much light on what is opaque and help to improve the quality of our public life. That obligation is best exercised with diligent attention to details, verification and not rushing to sweeping conclusions.
The story of the drainage works is as follows:
1. Kaduna State has not spent N3bn on drainage works. Rather it took timely action to stop irregularity in one of its agencies in January 2017, dismissed the acting AGM of KAPWA and reviewed the entire project.
2. Drainage works were undertaken in the major metropolitan areas of Kaduna State to protect roads and assuage flooding.
3. The public works agency, KAPWA, is a direct labour agency, and is prohibited by law from awarding contracts. Therefore, the issue of advertising contracts does not arise for KAPWA.
4. The nature of the works were such that influential persons introduced members of the public to secure the works. And the identities of these sponsors were recorded as an additional guarantee that the contracts would be delivered by the beneficiaries. This is not the use of fronts. It is simply the energizing of the local economy through public works that were allotted to local companies. Is it reasonable behaviour for someone intending to use fronts to also unmask themselves?
5. It was most unfortunate that the safeguard above was abused by the dismissed AGM who proceeded to add fictitious and non-existent names, or put down names of known persons without their knowledge and consent to ‘award’ contracts to persons of his choice. This action and failure to substantiate many of the records led to his dismissal. The government would not have acted as such if its officials or relations were truly complicit in the madness.
6. The drainage works began in December 2016. They proved popular, creating jobs and new markets for traders in construction goods. But by the end of January 2017, the massive scale of the works and appeals to the Governor by many senior politicians to promote and confirm the acting AGM to the position of GM of KAPWA, indicated that something was amiss. The Governor therefore directed that some investigation of the state of affairs be undertaken immediately.
7. If there was self-interest on the part of government officials, would they have acted to stop a project in which they are supposedly beneficiaries? How can a project suspended since January 2017 be cast as a bazaar?
8. A government investigation revealed that the then management of KAPWA went out of its lawful bounds, and had potentially committed the state to a bigger than intended liability. The project was accordingly reviewed.
9. Disciplinary action followed the investigation. In February 2017, the government fired Hayatudeen Lawal Makarfi, the acting AGM of KAPWA, for this and ordered a wholistic review of the drainage works. During the investigation, the sacked AGM was unable to provide any documentary evidence of valid contracts, the technical justification and links to the persons he named as having introduced the individuals and companies purportedly engaged.
10. The investigation also revealed that the dismissed AGM did not comply with the 16-step process he was given to guide the road maintenance and drainage projects.
11. Since then, KDSG has sent a bill to the House of Assembly to abolish KAPWA for these and other reasons, and establish a new agency with a totally different modus operandi.
Sahara Reporters took a list of contracts, entertained no skepticism, invented the cost and went on to concoct a bazaar and needlessly taint the names of innocent persons, in and out of the government.
The Kaduna State Government acted in January 2017 to stop a potential crisis of cost overruns and suspended the drainage works, at great political cost. The works will resume, based on a verified list, when the rainy season is over this year. However, intervention works are going on to safeguard buildings, fences and culverts, and allow for free flow of water.
Tenacious efforts taken by KDSG to remedy and correct deficits in an agency six months ago should not be twisted to eke a scandal out of nothing. The dismissed AGM was a political appointee who came from the campaign structure. But that did not stop the government from applying sanctions against one of its own.
Senior Special Assistant- Media and Publicity
21 June 2017