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Reps summon finance minister over oil contract breaches

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John Ameh, Abuja

The House of Representatives on Monday summoned the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, over an alleged violation of the Public Procurement Act in the engagement of contractors for pre-shipment inspection and monitoring of crude oil and gas exports from the country.

The House Committee on Public Procurement, which issued the summons in Abuja, is also investigating cases of ‘indiscriminate issuance of certificates of no objection’ by the Bureau of Public Procurement.

The BPP had given approval to the contractors in February 2016 to undertake the inspection, but the House committee observed that the selection did not follow the conditions specified in the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

The Chairman of the committee, Mr Wole Oke, relying on documents sourced from the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Corporate Affairs Commission and other regulatory agencies, discovered that the award of the contracts did not meet the laid down rules.

The committee also noted that the action of the Finance Ministry and the BPP suggested that they acted in disregard to a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari that the contracts must be awarded in compliance with the Procurement Act.

Oke stated, “Mr President, Buhari, in line with the thing he is known for; his integrity, wrote a letter directing that the ministry should conduct the exercise by keeping faith with the BPP Act.

“As a matter of fact, in one of the letters, he wrote that the pre-shipment agents must be experienced and active. Buhari signed in his own handwriting. Were the rules followed? Were they applied?”

But what got lawmakers angry was the realisation that Adeosun sent the Director of Legal Services in the ministry, Mr Christopher Gabriel, to represent her.

Besides, Gabriel did not tender any authorisation letter to the committee, specifying that he was mandated by the minister to represent her.

To make matters worse, when he was asked to make the ministry’s presentation to the committee, the director started by saying that he had no submissions to make.

He claimed to have received a communication to represent the ministry only on Friday night last week, and did not prepare adequately to make any presentation.

A member of the committee, Mr Gabriel Onyenwife, interjected that the House would extend the right to fair hearing granted every citizen under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to the minister to be heard.

He added that failing to take advantage of the constitutional provision, the committee would be forced to assume that the allegations made against her ministry were correct.

Onyenwife, a lawyer, spoke further, “When you look at the letter the minister wrote to excuse herself, it says the Permanent Secretary in the ministry is to represent her, not the director of legal services.

“The director has no role to play here and his presence here shows clearly the lack of regard for the work of the parliament.

“Under sections 88/89 of the constitution, the minister and the permanent secretary can be summoned for the purpose of this investigation.

“I make an application that they should be summoned to appear within the next 24 hours.”

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