For the fight against corruption

Corruption“In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man becomes the king!” – Anonymous 

RECENT studies have shown that 70-80 per cent of government spending on capital projects is done by way of contract awards. And when we combine federal, states and local governments spending on various projects, the total annual expenditure can be staggering.

Yet the spending of this gargantuan amount of our common wealth is currently being handled by a largely non-professional or untutored segment of our public service population.

True, in recent times, the federal Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) has sent a sizeable number of Federal Civil Service employees to a three-week training in Lagos, conducted by a British firm, but it cannot turn anybody into a professional.

Public procurement is the entirety of purchases and acquisitions by government and/or its agencies through written contracts, with emphasis on written contracts.

Thus, this definition naturally excludes any and all petty cash purchases. The Federal Government (FGN) made a serious mistake in appointing as D-G of the BPP somebody who had no training in Public Procurement. Yet, even after that mistake, today, seven years later, there is still no National Council for Public Procurement (NCPP) in place, as mandated by the law.

No string of academic degrees, Master’s or doctorates, can qualify somebody who has no professional certification in Public Procurement to run the BPP as its D-G. Indeed, running the BPP directly from the law (PPA ’07) without the standard manual of administrative interpretation is clear evidence of that lack of professional training.

Furthermore, the absence of the NCPP is what led to what President Muhammadu Buhari recently referred to as the “weekly Wednesday contract bazaar” by the FEC. On the other hand, CIPSMN is a chartered institute for private-sector purchasing and “procurement”.

The founders of the Institute may have succeeded in manipulating Nigeria’s National Assembly into granting it a charter with various subtle clauses and verbiage whose implications the legislators themselves probably did not quite see.

Nonetheless, certification by the CIPSMN does not in any way qualify anybody to lead or supervise the activities of the BPP.

This is because, to those who know, the differences between public procurement and private-sector purchasing are enormous, as much by actual practice as by their nuances.

It is nonsensical therefore for the CIPSMN to claim that it can train BPP employees in public procurement practices when the CIPSMN “trainers” themselves are not trained, certified and experienced in Public Procurement! This then brings us back to the quotation about “the country of the blind”: Precious few people in Nigeria, apparently including even the Federal Government, know that there are persons trained and certified specifically in Public Procurement.

Apparently, this is also why some state governments, in advertising for Public Procurement reform consultancy, would be satisfied with some person as Lead Consultant who merely possesses a Master’s degree with 10 years post-graduation experience in any of the numerous fields usually listed… but these adverts never mention Public Procurement as required training or certification for this Lead Consultant position.

There are now professional organisations (i.e. institutes) whose members are strictly Public Procurement practitioners.

There is now also a worldwide body, independent of the individual professional institutes, established for the sole purpose of setting professional standards for the practice of Public Procurement, examining interested candidates, and certifying those who meet the standards. That body is the UPPCC – Universal Public Procurement Certification Council.

It is headquartered in the United States. Around the world, as at May 2014, the UPPCC has certified exactly 2,532 persons with the designation of CPPO. (Please compare to 15-20 million persons with a PhD.) Of the 2,532 CPPOs, only two are Nigerians.

Indeed, the CPPO and CPPB credentials are recognised throughout the public procurement profession as demonstration of the individual’s comprehensive knowledge of as well as competence in Public Procurement. I note with a certain degree of sadness that while several Nigerian state governments have sought to effect Public Procurement reform in their states, they have turned to the same “experts” who worked on the federal PPA ’07.

These “experts”, sad to say, simply copied and adapted the federal PPA ’07, warts and all, and the same implementation bottlenecks are being transferred to these states, unbeknownst to the state officials who pay or authorize that the “experts’” bills be paid.

Thus, one can only hope that this publication will make other state governments a little too wise to fall victim to these same “experts”. • F. Eke Urum-Eke wrote from Abuja.

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