INSIGHT INTO A POTENTIALLY NON-TRANSPARENT, SHADY, UNDERHAND DEAL BETWEEN THE CBN & SYSTEMSPECS.
The general public may recall that for several months now the UNITED GLOBAL RESOLVE FOR PEACE (UGRFP) have written severally on suspicious awards of contracts and the questionable burden surreptitiously imposed on the general public by CBN fiat.
We undertook a painstaking investigation of the processes that led to SystemSpecs, a private technology firm with dealings in software production, becoming the service provider for the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Treasury Single Account program. SystemSpecs developed the e-collection platform – REMITA, which has been singularly responsible for effecting the treasury single account objectives.
Our curiosity was kindled when by 1st November, 2018, the general public were mandated by an arbitrary order emanating from the CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA to pay an extra fee of N150 for every payment made into a government account. Our investigation reveals that this was in part to satisfy the federal government’s debt to SystemSpecs for services rendered since the full lunch of the TSA policy in 2015.
The Federal Government arrived at the decision that it could not pay SystemSpecs for its services and transferred the incidence of burden on ordinary and unknowing members of the public. The implication being that even for a transaction of N100 the general public suffer over 150% incremental charge in extra fee.
It was clear that there were questions that demanded answers as it is unusual that a government would undertake a contract with a service provider without having clearly laid out terms and liabilities determined.
We proceeded to write letters to the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Office of the Accountant-General General of the Federation and the Bureau of Public Procurement requesting for details on the processes that led to the awarding of the TSA programme to SystemSpecs and the terms of said contract relying on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Details of our extensive meeting with the Director, Treasury Single Account on the behalf of the Accountant-General General of the Federation are contained in an earlier statement made available to the public. Suffice to say that the TSA Director categorically stated that it had nothing to do with the award of the TSA contract to SystemSpecs and categorically mentioned that the Central Bank of Nigeria were responsible for the deal.
On the strength of the above, we wrote to the Central Bank of Nigeria requesting for correspondences and documents between the CBN and SystemSpecs detailing the procurement process employed in selecting the latter and the terms of same.
We were interested in ensuring that due process that best reflects transparency, accountability and equity, and which strictly follows the laid down procurement process at law and convention were followed in the award of the TSA management contract to SystemSpecs.
We, however, are in receipt of a letter dated the 15th of July, 2019 from the Bureau of Public Procurement in reply to our query via a letter on the 13th of June, 2019 which indicates that the BPP were not involved in the procurement process that led to the awarding of said contract to SystemSpecs thus raising reasonable suspicion over the entire process.
In said letter, the Bureau of Public Procurement emphatically denies knowledge of and exempts itself from the procurement process that resulted in the award of the TSA management contract to SystemSpecs. In fact, it stated directly that it was not involved in the procurement process at whatever stage.
Members of the public are to recall that UGRFP had previously written to the CBN on the strength of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) making inquiries into, and asking for documentation of, the procurement process that led to the selection of SystemSpecs. We were directed to approach the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) as the CBN claimed it had forwarded all necessary documents there and we could obtain copies thereof. We so obliged.
But as stated earlier, the OAGF through the Treasury Single Account department redirected us to the CBN emphatically stating that the CBN procured SystemSpecs and were thus better placed to provide documentation of the procurement processes in evidence of its compliance with Nigeria’s extant laws.
Our rejoinder to the Central Bank of Nigeria is yet to be honored wherein we once again challenged it over the unfair and arbitrary imposition of charges on ordinary Nigerians. We went further to make a demand that the charges be reviewed from N150 to N50 or less.
Ancillary to the above, we once again asked to see the documentations that outline the terms of contract between it and SystemSpecs and evidentiary proof that due process was followed in its choice of SystemSpecs to act on behalf of the Federal Government in the treasury single policy.
This recent hand-washing reply from the BPP leads to the worrisome conclusion that the TSA programme may have been awarded without due recourse to relevant authorities nor compliance with statutory laws as enshrined in the Public Procurement Act (PPA) 2007.
This leads to the question of how then SystemSpecs managed to secure some form of deal to manage the TSA process through its REMITA platform. By what instrument, precedence or authority can the CBN procure a contract without going through relevant authorities ?
ISSUES AND IMPLICATIONS.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 provides for prudent management of the nation’s resources, ensures long-term macro-economic stability of the national economy, and secures greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations, which aims to reduce significant corruption and irregularity within public procurement processes.
The core purpose of the Bureau of Public Procurement and the National Council on Public Procurement, empowered by the Public Procurement Act (2007) is to ensure that public procurement are competitive, transparent, efficiently done and gives the best value for money.
It does seem that due process in the award of contract to SystemSpecs by the Federal Government of Nigeria incorporated none of the above as the governing body, in a manner of speaking, BPP, has denied knowledge of nor was involved in the selection of SystemSpecs.
Even in the case of a waiver or direct procurement process, the BPP must be put in the know and reasons must be given and approved for why a process cannot be opened for public bidding. This is the permitted process at law even in emergency procurement process that the procurer ( in this case the CBN) submit a report to the BPP stating reasons why it employed a direct or emergency procurement process rather than an open bidding. The BPP are then to affirm or approve of same through the issuance of a Letter of no Objection.
All the above outlined processes leaves paper trails and are duly documented for future reference. However, the letter in our possession from the BPP seems to suggest that none of the laid out procedures were followed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, a situation that ridicules the mischief sort to be treated by the procurement laws of Nigeria.
COULD IT TRULY BE THE CASE THAT A PRIVATE COMPANY HAS BEEN PUT IN CHARGE OF OR AWARDED A MULTI-BILLION CONTRACT WITHOUT HAVING BEEN PUT THROUGH RELEVANT PROCUREMENT LAWS AND PROCEDURES NO LESS BY THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA ? WHAT ARE THE WIDER IMPLICATIONS FOR NIGERIANS WHO PLACE COMPLETE FAITH IN THESE AGENCIES?
In trying to ascertain the terms of contract between the federal government of Nigeria and SystemSpecs that led to the inexplicable imposition of charges on the innocent public, we may have stumbled upon a truly delicate cover-up of a magnitude that may stun the public.
We are hopeful that the Central Bank of Nigeria will take the opportunity of our requested visit to address these concerns as the public are clearly interested in ascertaining the entire truth behind these issues.
The concerns of the public cannot be taken for granted nor would a matter of such a magnitude be swept under the carpet.
For the avoidance of doubt, our inquiries are still on what procurement process was undertaken in the selection of SystemSpecs for the TSA programme and also why the transfer of the incidence of burden onto the general public for a matter strictly within the privity of the federal government‘s dealing with SystemSpecs?
We will continue to keep the public informed as our investigation progresses and in the advised incident that the Central Bank of Nigeria honors our letter to them.
United Global Resolve For Peace.