Public Procurement Act is a veritable tool to fight corruption
Etudo and Co. is a Real Estate Firm with an intellectual team that aligns client and company goals, while meeting targets and client requirements for high quality products and services. The firm’s success lies in their ability to conform to ethical standards without cutting corners. Chief Ebube Etudo, the Principal Partner of the firm has over 35 years industry experience and has contributed immensely to the development of the profession. The pacesetter and industry stalwart spoke on the need to use the Public Procurement Act as an instrument in the fight against corruption in this interview with NnamdiNwokolo.
What influenced your choice of career?
I would say that my choice of career happened by accident because I didn’t really appreciate the meaning of the course until we got to the university. The real appreciation of the profession begins when you start practicing because that is when you’ll start relating what you were taught with the practical aspects of the profession. I started my professional practice with the foremost estate surveying and valuation firm in Nigeria; Knight Frank and Rutley. At a point, I realized I needed to chart my own course and I took the opportunity and set up Etudo and Co. From a humble beginning, we’ve built the firm to an enviable position in the industry. It has not been easy but with total compliance with the rule of law, things have been less stressful. The biggest challenge of running an Estate Surveying and valuation firm is the transition from a small firm to a big firm. It is very difficult, at times; when you take one step forward, before you know it you have taken two steps backwards. We strongly believe in the full observance of the law. In other words, we practice by the books without cutting corners. We are an anti corruption firm.
Role of Estate Surveyor and Valuer in national development:
The profession is the widest possible field of practice in the world because it has no beginning and it has no end. Every activity that humans are involved in occurs on land and we are the only profession charged with the responsibility of managing land resources. We’ve contributed in no small measure to the development of the economy. It is a regulated profession and there’s the Estate Sueveryors and Valuers Registration Board that makes sure that the provisions of the act are compiled with. In terms of checking the activities of quacks in the industry, I won’t speak for the institution, but I’m sure that over the years, they’ve done a lot and they’ll continue to do so. It will interest you to know that the activity of quacks is prevalent in almost every profession and it forms the problem of this country. We don’t take law and order seriously and that is why we are where we are. If you want to go full blast to enforce law and order, people will start revolting. We pay lip service to the fight against corruption.
You’ve been at the forefront of the campaign for total compliance with the Public Procurement Act, what is responsible for this? Procurement is the process of buying goods and services for the wellbeing of its citizens by the government. The principle of public procurement provides that it must be open, competitive and transparent so that you get the best in terms of quality and price. You can use this background to look at what is happening at the three tiers of government – the local, state and federal governments. Are they all buying their goods and services in a transparent, open and competitive manner? Once you answer that, you’ll understand the challenges of public procurement and proffer solutions to them. I got interested in 2010 when I read an advertisement for a job by an agency of government, and I discovered that my firm could not participate, even though we were qualified in terms of experience and competence. What happened was that we weren’t compliant in other areas. As somebody who believes in total compliance, I got interested and saw the public Procurement Act as a water tight legislation that will help Nigeria to grow the economy if we fully comply to its principles. The act in section 16 spells out some fundamental principles guiding public procurement including openness, equity, fit for purpose, transparency and competitiveness to give value for money.
Why is adherence to the Act still very poor?
We abhor adherence to the rule of law and it is a cultural thing. It started with the due process office and later metamorphosed into the Public Procurement Act. The law applies to projects where government money is involved up to 35%, so it encompasses the activities of joint ventures of oil companies, the Discos and the Gencos. In line with this principle, the violation of any section of the Public Procurement Act is criminal. By extension, if we stretch the interpretation of the Act, the federal, state and local governments must comply with the provisions of the Act. This is because they receive more than 35% of their revenue from the federal government. If the provisions of the Public Procurement Act are complied with, I believe that governments across board will save up to 70% of their expenditure for capital projects. For example, the first year Britain introduced the Act, they saved up to 40% in government expenditure. If we adhere to the principles of the Public Procurement Act fully we should be able to save up to 80% of government expenditure going by the extent of violations in Nigeria.
Level of compliance by the three tiers of government:
The moment the government insists on total compliance, before you know it, there will be a revolt by the people. When Buhari came into power in December 1983, he insisted on total war against all forms of indiscipline. Before we know it, they threw him out in a military coup. Nigerians have a history of not taking their lives very seriously. This is not a matter for government alone but for everybody. We must realize that nothing but total compliance with the Public Procurement Act will suffice to raise us out of the pit of poverty. It is not something you leave for one man as it is an arduous task and very difficult. Don’t wait till everybody rises to make the difference, we can make the difference in our own little corners. The awareness about the Act is an assignment for all of us. We as practitioners are very diligent and vigilant that when we notice any infringement, we ask questions, and there are few of us in the country today.
If you give the civil servants jobs to do and you fail to hold them accountable, who do you blame? How do you create jobs for the economy, the Act has the capacity to create jobs in terms of reducing godfatherism and open opportunity for ordinary people to do government jobs. It has the capacity to create more jobs for citizens as well as reduces the cost of goods and services for government and it opens the field for everybody to participate. For us, the law is our godfather as we believe in total compliance with the principles of the Act. We fail to see any justice in a system that allows any firm that has not fulfilled the requirements of the law to compete for government jobs with firms that have complied with the law. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Public Procurement with due respect, is a cesspit of corruption as they collude with procuring entities to tailor jobs to preferred bidders. We’ve had occasions where our bid envelops were surreptitiously opened to steal our figures.
The way out is to create enough awareness to make majority of Nigerians aware of the provisions of the Act. It is important that we make Nigerians aware of the Act as this will go a long way in helping to ensure high level of compliance. If everybody becomes aware of the provisions, the possibility of joining the crusade will be easier. It’s a fight all Nigerians must participate in, to enthrone accountability and eliminate corruption in our body polity. As we speak nothing has changed, the fight against corruption must be total and the public procurement act is a veritable tool to fight this menace. Corruption is pervasive in our society because we lack the political will to fight the menace forgetting that the architecture of corruption is very weak and it crumbles with minimal force..
What sets your firm apart from Competitors?
The attribute that define our firm includes technical competence, years of experience and a deep knowledge of our working environment. But it is this element of total compliance to the rule of law that separates us from the rest. We have a genuine subscription to helping clients achieve their goals. We have a qualified and experienced team of Real Estate and related professionals to meet our clients’ needs.
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