Thursday, July 7, 2022

TETFUND: Tackling Abandoned projects

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The ongoing spate of construction abandoned projects at colleges and tertiary institutions in the country has become a major concern for stakeholders.

Given that abandoned construction projects negatively affect learning outcomes at Nigeria’s universities due to inadequate teaching facilities, the need for a strict project implementation policy cannot be overstated

Professor Godwin Jagboro of the department of Quantity Surveying, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ille-ife, recently opined that project abandonment has contributed to current infrastructure deficit and inadequate teaching facilities in the Nigerian tertiary education institutions.

He said the current facilities are being overstretched, due to an explosion in the number of students seeking admission into tertiary institutions, since the need to develop strategies to facilitate the resuscitation of abandoned projects, while analysing the causes of abandonment and developing frameworks to prevent its occurrence.

However, in its bid to ensure that there are no abandoned projects in its beneficiary institutions, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), said it will work closely with regulatory authorities to get support towards putting an end to the menace.

The Fund said it has already recommended termination of contracts and sanctions for erring contractors handling projects in institutions benefiting from its various interventions.

TETFund executive secretary, Arch Sonny Echono, who acknowledged that there were challenges of high cost of materials in the last one year, said the fund has been coping with the situation as it has designed ways of responding to it.

“We would be working closely with the regulatory authorities to see how we can get support for this and ensure that we don’t have abandoned projects because ultimately, it is better to solve the problem today; the more you delay, the more the cost will increase and the greater the complications will be.

“So, we are working in a very nimble manner, we are working with the contractors, institutions. We are already meeting. The whole of last week we met with so many institutions that have such challenges and we continue for the rest of this week. We are finding solutions.

“And some of them where the fault is that of the contractor, we are not only recommending terminations, we are also recommending sanctions. But there are other areas where the fault is basically what you call force major, it’s external to everybody,” he said.

Echono, who further elaborates on the issue of corruption in procurement processes, said that it is one of the manifestations or incentives for bad procurement, noting that good procurement is the one that fulfills the goal of, in particular, procurement at the right time and at the right time right cost to everyone’s satisfaction.

“Procurement is the major source of pecuniary gain because more often than not the contract system has become so endemic and embedded in our system that people also see it as a main source of unearned income.

“So, what we need to do is to professionalise the sector and ensure that those who carry out those activities are trained to do so. We need to reinforce the system, our checks, the regulatory functions, and the role of all our anti corruption agencies should be more preventive.

“It is better to do it at the preventive end by putting measures in place to limit incidence from happening rather than thinking of arresting people and prosecuting them.

“Working with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and other anti-corruption agencies, we are designing mechanisms to improve on those processes that will detect, disrupt and also prevent them,” he said.

He noted that rather than focus on arresting and prosecuting people who go against procurement guidelines, measures should be put in place to prevent people from indulging in the act.

He stressed the need to encourage professionalism, reinforce procurement systems, ensure checks among other things. Corruption is one of the manifestations or incentives for mis-procurement. It has over time been a major source of pecuniary gain as people see it as a main source of unearned income.

“So, it is better to put measures in place to limit incidents from happening rather than thinking of arresting people and prosecuting them. Working with the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and other anti-corruption agencies, PPAN is designing mechanisms to improve on those processes that will detect, disrupt and also prevent sharp practices,” he added.

Echono further said that besides professionalism, integrity also played a major role in the efficient procurement process. “We want to ensure that they have the right orientation, character and the disposition to be truthful and honest in the discharge of their duty,” he said.

Meanwhile, Emeka Ezeh, Chairman Board of Trustees of PPAN, said one of the ways to ensure efficiency, transparency and accountability in procurement processes in the country was to ensure that projects were not tied to particular contractors.

He said the approach encourages the institutions to engage the services of contractors of their choice as provided under the Public Procurement Act, adding that by doing so, TETFund was encouraging good procurement practice in the institutions.

Eze, who was also a former Director General of the Bureau of Public Procurement, said in tackling corruption in public procurement, instead of criminalising administrative misbehaviours, the country should improve on administrative sanctions.

According to him, this means ensuring that the contractors involved are debarred and heads of agencies involved in procurement are removed or posted out or procurement functions entirely removed from them.

The Procurement Professional Association of Nigeria is the leading professional body for the regulation and coordination of procurement activities in the country with members from both the private and public sectors.

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