The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) on Wednesday in Lagos commenced a three-day intensive training for government personnel to fight corruption in Public Procurement.
The training, which is being funded by the European Union, has as its theme; “Fighting Corruption in Public Procurement’’.
The personnel are from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and the media.
They are drawn from Lagos, Edo, Enugu, Rivers, and Oyo states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In his remarks, the Consultant for UNODC, Mr Richard Messick said that the training would help improve enforcement of the public procurement law in the country.
He said the training became necessary in view of the huge public funds being put in Public procurement in Nigeria.
“We are working with BPP to train investigators and prosecutors, who work for the EFCC and the ICPC on how to understand violations of the procurement law and how to gather evidence.
“Procurement is one of the important sources of corruption in any country, Nigeria or elsewhere.
“The government spends in Nigeria, something close to one third of all public funds on procurement.
“So, if one third of public funds are misused or stolen, the Federal Government and the people of Nigeria will suffer huge losses,’’ he said.
Messick said that UNODC would continue to be a source of advice and help as more complicated cases were being unraveled.
According to him, procurement can be very complicated to investigate if it involves construction of a large dam, a bridge or a road.
It required “a whole team of investigators accountants, lawyers, engineers and many more, to pull apart documents and interview witnesses’’.
On the role of the National Assembly in the procurement process, the consultant said, the Public Procurement Act enacted in 2007 was in line with international best practice.
He noted that the law was extensive enough to prosecute offenders, adding that it addressed all critical issues in procurement where potential for corruption was suspected.
“The question is getting the MDAs to better understand the law and to follow the law and then help ICPC, BPP and EFCC in investigating any form of violation.’’
The Director of Training, BPP, Abuja, Mr Adebowale Adekudokun, decried the rising cases of corruption in procurement processes, adding that it had devastating effect on sustainable development.
He said the practice had over time deprived Nigerians access to quality education, good healthcare, good roads and other basic needs.
Adekudokun, who is also a resource person at the training, said unless something drastic was done to change the narrative, the country would be plunged into more hardship.
He said that one of the steps toward changing the trend was to ensure adequate awareness on contract bidding to give more people ample time to apply.
Adekudokun said all hands must be on deck to rid the country of the menace, adding that all relevant agencies must collaborate to finding lasting solution to the problem.
“The result of corruption in the country is collapsed buildings, and lack of proper learning environment for students among others.
“These are all due to either misappropriation of funds or lack of commitment by contractors to adhere to terms of agreement or there is no political will to do the right thing.
“There are agencies where chief executives cancel procurement of contracts because those that won the bidding are not their choice of contractors.
“Also, there are cases where some contractors, who are not registered with the BPP are being awarded contracts. This is criminal.
“There is only one central database for registration of contractors for Federal Government contracts and it is domiciled with BPP.
“No agency of government other than BPP has the right to register contractors,’’ he said.
The director urged participants to always look out for a number of factors in the process of investigating corrupt tendencies in public procurement processes.
He said the BPP on its part, often carried out retreats for chief executives, issue circulars and also carry out spots checks to ensure that the Public Procurement Act was strictly adhered to.