The Courts Grant Leave to Procurement Monitors to sue NSA

If there is suspicion that a hole exists in your bag of rice, you need to fix it before pouring in more rice into the bag because no matter how much rice you pour into the bag, it is going keep leaking for as long as the hole exists. This is our position with security spending. We understand that procuring defence is expensive but there needs to be a system of accountability that ensures that money spent in the defence sector is well planned for and is actually being used to achieve the purpose for which it has been allocated. Without this, the risk of insecurity would not diminish by any means. Now to the heart of the matter; You would recall that a few weeks ago, we had asked the courts to allow us proceed with a case we filed against the National Security Adviser for failure to disclose contracting details relating to the procurement of CCTV cameras in the FCT and its environs. Well, the courts have found our application favourable and now we can proceed with the case against the NSA. It is time, that we all challenge the acts of security officials to hide under the blanket of secrecy to refuse disclosure of information that ought not be held as an official secret; least of all, information on expenditure which cannot be construed to be injurious to the Nation’s defence. In other news, the Defence Ministry has been gracious enough to provide us with some information on their expenditure. For more details, view our Procurement Monitor Bulletin here

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Security Contracts and Disclosure

Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power,we discovered, its enabling force. Transparency is the only real antidote.  …….Glenn Greenwald

At the risk of being seen as adversarial, procurement monitors have sued the Office of the National Security Adviser; requesting leave from the court to mandate that access is provided to the spending details for CCTV cameras for which a budgetary allocation was made in the 2013 budget. It is only right that I mention that we are not bent at suing; but if that is where our remedy lies, then we need to explore the courts. The recent bomb blast at EMAB plaza, which is in Wuse 2, a commercial district in capital city of Nigeria, Abuja, only brought to light the gravity of the security situation. Many questions need to be answered around security spending and hiding under the blanket of secrecy does not help. That is why we did not appreciate being told by the Office of the National Security Adviser that releasing information relating to CCTV cameras may be injurious to National Security and that is why we have decided that the courts would need to decide how information on security spending would be injurious to National Security.  Read the full press release here

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Neman Wuta (Searching for Light): A 10 minute documentary on power sector monitoring in Nigeria

Hello Friends and colleagues,

I apologize for my absence from this space for a while; I promise I am still with the people!!! Just to give you a heads up on what has been keeping us busy in Nigeria. Well, a lot really. As some of you know, we have been monitoring power sector projects in Nigeria in the last two years. For some that have visited or lived in Nigeria e.g Beauty, Kathrin, Seember you also know how unstable our electricity supply has been over the years. Naturally, this is a big concern to Nigerians and friends of Nigeria because electricity is a base structure for several social and economic activities. The lack of electricity would have worked out well if the public systems that have been built did not require this form of energy…alas, they all do.   So we set out to demystify Electricity delivery in Nigeria by focusing a significant part of our contract monitoring efforts on power sector contracting. The results point strongly towards the need for more information sharing and synergy for improved electricity in Nigeria. And it is the monitors revealing what they found out. I bet you would find it very informative. Currently we have been using this short documentary for increased advocacy because we cannot afford to keep repeating the same old patterns. We want to ensure that our lessons create an impact across Nigeria (wish us luck) of this. A lot has changed since we shot this documentary and I shall keep you updated in a different post….tomorrow.

In the meantime, please enjoy the documentary titled Neman Wuta which means searching for light in Hausa. Enjoy.

Very many thanks to the World Bank Institutional Development Fund  for their support to power sector procurement monitoring       

You can watch the 10 minute documentary here

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Has Transparency in the Nigerian Power Sector come of Age?

The Nigerian power sector has been put on the spotlight over time not least because of the unsatisfactory power service delivered to households country wide.  In addition to the abysmal power service that has arisen from years of neglect, what the public often sees and hears about the power sector relates to funds secured for power sector investment and little else on the details of such contracts. For many procurement monitors, attempts at accessing procurement information on power sector contracts proved challenging. In 2012, the Nigerian contract monitoring coalition sued PHCN after several failed attempts to access information on some contracts that had been awarded.  Recent events however, suggest that secrecy within the power sector may be a thing of the past.

 A few weeks ago, procurement monitors affiliated with the Zero Corruption Coalition applied for the procurement records of certain power contracts for the construction of distribution transformers which were advertised by the Rural Electrification Agency and within six days, some of the records requested for were provided. On scrutiny of the records provided, a further request was sent, and again, within six days the requested procurement information was made available. Similarly, last year, procurement monitors from the Initiative for Food, Environment and Health Society had requested for procurement information from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and this was promptly granted in less than a week. These two cases are in sharp contrast to the non-disclosure position taken by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria earlier in 2012.

To pave the way for even greater access to procurement information,  a Federal High Court in Abuja  has given a ruling in favour of the Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition for the immediate release of bid evaluation reports and contract award documents with respect to power projects undertaken by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria; so in more ways than one,  it would seem that timely access to power sector procurement information is on the increase; transparency being a means towards efficient public service delivery.

In addition to the generation of early warning signals for skewed procurement processes, timely responses to requests made for power sector procurement records is significant for monitors  at the stage of project implementation who need access to the specifications of what is being monitored; they are aware of the terms of the contract, the duration of the contract, the exact contract sums involved, the competence of the contractors, the expected utility to be derived from the project on completion etc. This also puts public agencies on their toes to choose the best hands that would deliver required quality services.  From the procurement monitoring reports of the Rural Electrification Agency, it is now clear that the contract for the construction of distribution transformers in various local governments in Oyo State ought to be completed in 12 months and Procurement monitors can now compare prices of similar power sector contracts.

In some way therefore, procurement monitors anticipate that increased access to procurement information is likely to result in adequately designed procurement plans with realistic targets for performance. Procurement monitors also acknowledge that with increased access to procurement records, scrutiny of such records would intensify because more often than not, the devil is in the details.

The ultimate purpose remains that transparency in the public procurement information should facilitate the objectives of a procurement system that delivers value for money in the provision of public infrastructure and services.

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Power Company Obeys Court Order, Releases Contract Details to Contract Monitoring Coalition

The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has disclosed documents containing details of a World Bank supported contract for the supply and installation of sectionalizers at the High Voltage Distribution systems in Abuja, Lagos and Ibadan in compliance with last month’s order of an Abuja Federal High Court.

By a letter dated April 2, 2013, signed by Engr. A.J. Ciroma, its General Manager, Project Monitoring Unit (PMU), the PHCN forwarded a copy of the “Bid Evaluation Report containing all annexes” and a copy of the signed contract document to the Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition, which had made a request for them under the Freedom of Information Act and instituted the suit following PHCN’s earlier refusal to disclose them.

PHCN explained in the covering letter that “the contact sum, the conditions of contract, payment terms and number of required sectionalizers in each of the HVDS Networks are all contained in the signed contract document.”

It also requested the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), which instituted the suit on behalf of the Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition, to forward its bank account details to PHCN to enable the company pay the N20,000 costs awarded against PHCN by the court.

In the suit instituted on its behalf by the PPDC on September 21, 2012, the coalition sought an order to compel PHCN and the Attorney General of the Federation to provide it with procurement information relating to Bid No. NGP-D2 for the supply of 300 units of 11 KV, 500A On-Load Sectionalizers for installation at the High Voltage Distribution System (HVDS) networks at Karu in Abuja; at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Lagos; in two other locations in Lagos – Ogba and Agege; as well as Challenge in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Besides the PPDC, which is the National Convener of the Coalition, other members include the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), the Centre for Organizational and Professional Ethics (COPE-AFRICA) and the Initiative for Environmental and Health Society (IFEHS).

PHCN had initially refused to provide any of the records and documents requested by the coalition under the Freedom of Information Act but later released some of them after Justice A.F.A. Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja granted the coalition leave to institute the suit.  The PHCN however continued to withhold some of the other information sought by the Coalition, including the bid evaluation report for the contract process and the contract award document.

The PHCN claimed then that it could not disclose the outstanding documents as the disclosure would affect third party rights and negotiations in the contract award process.

However, in his judgment, Justice Ademola dismissed PHCN’s arguments, ruling that “since negotiations have been concluded and the contract awarded, the disclosure of the information sought cannot by any stretch of the imagination reasonably be expected to interfere with any contractual or other negotiations of the contractor” and issued an order for the release of contract documents sought by the coalition.

On behalf of  the Coalition, I commend  PHCN today for its speedy compliance with the court’s order as soon as it was served with a copy of the order. We were naturally disappointed with PHCN’s initial refusal to disclose the information we requested which resulted in avoidable litigation and caused unnecessary delays in our project to monitor the award and execution of the contract.  We are however encouraged by PHCN’s unreserved compliance with the court’s order, indicating a commitment to the rule of law.

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Court Orders Power Company to Fully Disclose Contract Details to Contract Monitoring Coalition

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to disclose to the Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition documents containing details of a World Bank-supported contract for the supply and installation of High Voltage Distribution systems in Abuja, Lagos and Ibadan.

Justice A.F.A Ademola issued the order in his judgement in a suit instituted by the Coalition following the refusal of PHCN to disclose to it details of the contract award.  The Coalition is monitoring the award and implementation of the contract for a Federal Government project funded with a credit facility obtained from the World Bank.

The National Convenor of the Coalition, the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC),  instituted the suit on behalf of the Coalition on September 21, 2012 through its lawyer, Mr. Godwin N. Chigbu, seeking an order mandamus to compel the PHCN, its General Manager in the Project Management Unit, and the Attorney-General of the Federation to furnish the coalition with copies of procurement documents and information relating to Bid No. NGP-D2 for the supply of 300 units of 11 KV, 500A On-Load Sectionalizers for installation at the High Voltage Distribution System (HVDS) networks at Karu in Abuja; at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), in Ogba and in Agege, all in Lagos as well as Challenge in Ibadan.

Besides the PPDC, other members of the coalition include the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), the Centre for Organizational and Professional Ethics (COPE-AFRICA) and the Initiative for Environmental and Health Society (IEHS).

The Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition is a division of the West African Contract Monitoring Coalition which is being regionally coordinated by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Commission (GACC). With support from the World Bank Institutional Development Fund, the Nigerian coalition is implementing a project titled Multi-stakeholder Engagement for Effective Public Procurement Process in Nigeria.

Although PHCN provided some of the contract records requested by the coalition after Justice Ademola granted the coalition leave instituting the suit, PHCN continued to withhold some of the information sought by the Coalition, including the bid evaluation report for the contract process and the final contract award document.

Explaining its decision, PHCN told the coalition that: “a copy of the bid evaluation could not be included as this will conflict with Section 15(a) and (b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 as regards third parties” and “a final contract award document could not be attached as a third party is involved”.

 

PHCN also argued in court that since the coalition was not a party to the contract between PHCN and the contractor,  PHCN was not obliged to release the documents to the coalition as this would be contrary to law and could interfere with the contract process.

Disagreeing with PHCN, Justice Ademola upheld the arguments of the coalition’s lawyer, Mr. Chigbu, saying: “since negotiations have been concluded and the contract awarded, the disclosure of the information sought cannot by any stretch of the imagination reasonably be expected to interfere with any contractual or other negotiations of the contractor.”

Justice Ademola noted that PHCN failed to satisfy the conditions stated in Section 15(1) (b) of the Freedom of Information Act and ruled that PHCN was not entitled to the exemption contained in the section.

The judge held that PHCN’s processes and written arguments lacked substance, describing them as “frivolous, time-wasting and an abuse of this Court’s process as they have no justification in denying the Applicant the documents sought.”

He therefore granted the coalition’s application for a mandatory order compelling PHCN to immediately release to the coalition of all contract documents sought.

Justice Ademola also ordered PHCN and the Attorney-General of the Federation to “jointly and severally” pay costs of N20,000 to the coalition.

For full text of the judgment, please click here

For any enquiries, please contact me through seember@procurementmonitor.org

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Nigerian Power Company Responds to Coalition’s Request for Contract Details

The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) has responded to a request made to it 10 weeks ago by the Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition asking it for detailed records and information about a World Bank-supported contract for the supply and installation of High Voltage Distribution systems in Abuja, Lagos and Ibadan.

PHCN provided some of the records and information demanded by the coalition after receiving service of an order issued by Justice A.F.A. Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja granting the coalition leave to apply for an order of mandamus to compel the electricity company to disclose details of the contract.

Justice Ademola granted the Coalition leave following a suit instituted on September 21, 2012 on its behalf by one of its members, the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), which is the National Convenor of the Coalition monitoring the award and implementation of the contract for the Federal Government project funded with a credit facility obtained from the World Bank. Read More

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Court Grants Leave to Nigerian Coalition to sue Power Company over Contract Information

Hi Everyone, you are probably aware of the challenges procurement monitors in Nigeria face in accessing procurement information.

Well, a few days ago,  a Federal High Court in Abuja granted leave to the Nigerian Contract Monitoring Coalition to apply for an order to compel the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) to disclose to it details of a World Bank-supported contract for the supply and installation of High Voltage Distribution systems in some nigerian cities.

Justice A.F.A Ademola granted the Coalition leave following a suit instituted on September 21, 2012 on its behalf by one of its members, the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), which is the National Convenor of the Coalition monitoring the award and implementation of the contract for the Federal Government project funded with a credit facility obtained from the World Bank. Click HERE  to read all about the story. I shall keep you informed on any further developments.

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The Burden of accessing Information on Power sector contracts

When this project to monitor power sector contracting processes was conceived, we were not ignorant of the challenges ahead in accessing information. We were however, hopeful that the recently enacted Freedom of Information Act, would ease this challenge. Our hope further soared when the World Bank promised that we would get the procurement records we need from them since the power projects we had chosen were being implemented through a credit facility from the World Bank. Well, things have not turned out as we hoped.

In the last month, we have been struggling to access relevant procurement records for the sectionalizers to no avail. We have held meetings with the World Bank country office and we have been referred to the World Bank website, but the information there is not close to sufficient to enable us monitor the entire contracting process. What is available on the website of the World Bank is a project document for the entire Nigeria Electricity and Gas Improvement Project (NEGIP) but we are only monitoring one component of this which is not elaborated upon in the document. We have also seen a procurement plan for the entire NEGIP  but it is dated and not useful for our current purposes.

What we need is information that details the NEED for a project to supply and install sectionalizers, what will be achieved if these sectionalizers are installed, the specifications for the sectionalizers, information on the bidding process and the process through which the contract was eventually awarded. We really need this amount of detail because our plan is to follow the entire process to determine how best value for money is being achieved, to determine whether the contractor with the best set of skills and resources was chosen to execute the process, whether the plan is realistic and is conceived through a well-informed process. This level of detail would further enable our tools development for monitoring and eventually, this tool would enable close monitoring at the stage of contract implementation.

Considering the insufficiency of the information on the site of the World Bank, we have been advised by the World Bank to access information from the public institutions themselves because the project is owned by the Federal Government; the World Bank is only providing a loan for the project.

A futile one month wasted! And you know what they say; hope defiled makes the heart sick…….but we shall not relent.

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Finally! Power sector Contract Monitoring Commences

It took a bit of time to kickstart this but finally we are here. Finally the Nigerian Ministry of Finance has approved the letter that would allow the Institutional Development Fund of the World Bank support power sector procurement monitoring in Nigeria. In order to start off, a multi-stakeholder coalition has been assembled which consists of the Bureau of Public ProcurementPublic and Private Development Centre, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Media Rights Agenda, Centre for Organizational and Professional Ethics-AFRICA, Initiative for Food, Environment and Health Society and an investigative Journalist from This Day . We have also developed an ambitious action plan to monitor the entire contracting process for selected electricity projects for which the Federal Government received a credit facility from the World Bank. So we shall start from its conception right to the contract execution. First things first, though, we need information and that is where the project commences. We shall keep you updated on this space.

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