The commission of inquiry set up by government of the State of Osun into the circumstances leading to the procurement of N18.3 billion and other major transactions in the state commenced its sitting last Monday with revelations, as the Executive Secretary of the Board for Vocational and Technical Education (BVTE), Mr Olakunle Oyebanji, admitted that the upgrading of nine technical colleges was foist on his agency.
The commission was set up in June this year to among other things, look into the propriety, whether the officials concerned discharged their duties and also to recommend sanctions or otherwise on any person found culpable in the process.
In his evidence, Oyebanji disclosed that the contract was introduced to the board by a letter from the chairman of the board, Professor Olu Aina, asking him to liaise with the Due Process Office for the success of the contract.
According to him, the board had earlier prepared a N217 million budget, before it was astronomically increased to N4.121 billion to accommodate the contract sum.
Oyebamiji stated that the increment was made at a pre-treasury meeting headed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, where they were informed that one of the priorities of the governor was the contract, and that it had been reviewed, hence they needed to increase the budget.
Speaking further, he stated that the agency could not scrutinize the contents of the contract because it was a “one man show”, adding that the contract sum had been concluded before the inspection of the various technical colleges.
He added that they were further informed that it was the priority of Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola and all hands must be on deck to ensure the completion of its success.
The Executive Secretary revealed further that the proposal for the contract was brought by Professor Aina, the chairman of the BVTE and that the contractor was foisted on the board.
When asked if the contract was bidded for, he stated earlier that three companies submitted tenders.
He however, contradicted himself when he was asked to name the companies, affirming that it was only Skill G. Company alone that was allowed to bid for the contract.
Oyebanji, who was also the Chairman of Tender and Bidding Committee, disclosed that the committee used selective bidding process before recommending the company to the state government for the project.
He revealed that the contract was not advertised because it was a sole concept of the Israeli-company, adding that it was impossible for the committee to recommend another company because they had earlier been informed by the Due Process Office that it was only Skill G that could execute the concept.
On whether he advised the state government on the need to contact other companies as the accounting officer of the board, he revealed that he was not aware that he was superior to the chairman of the board at the time of awarding the contract.
He informed the commission that at the procurement committee level, they recommended that 60 per cent of the total cost of the project should be paid as mobilization fee and could not understand the reason why 70 per cent was paid to the contractors.
Oyebanji told the panel that he was not satisfied with the level of work done on the buildings, adding that he could not speak on reasons for slow pace of work because it was the Due Process Office that appointed a consultant for the project.
He however, commended the contractor on the procurement of equipment for the projects, saying the report of the consultant showed that the contractor has provided about 90 per cent of the equipment and was still in the warehouse.
The commission members however confronted him that on their visit to the sites of projects, they discovered that using the contractors’ rate, only about N400 million had so far been used out of over N700 million paid to them.
Oyebamiji, who could not proffer response to the claim of the commission, was later discharged after some hours of drilling.
In his evidence before the commission, the former Director-General, Due Process Office, Mr Gbenga Abiola, disclosed that the mobilization fee was not 70 per cent across board, saying the amount in relation to building and renovation was about 35 per cent.
He also stated that there was no selective bidding process, but they employed direct or single source method to award the contract.
Justifying the method, he said the law establishing the Due Process Office allowed such method in an emergency situation, quoting section 45 of the state public procurement law.
He maintained that the type of delivery of the contract, which was ten months,was the reason the office could not advertise the project for others to submit their tenders.
Abiola further claimed that the reason for paying 70 per cent as mobilization fee, against the recommendation of the board, was due to the delivery time of the project, which was ten months, adding that the purchase of equipment could not be done in phases.
He told the panelists that he was satisfied with the spate of work before the coming of the current administration, but he was no longer satisfied with it now, because it has been stopped due to shortage of funds.
When asked to name the schools marked for renovation and those for construction, he could not point to any particular one, saying it was just part of the agreement that those that are still habitable should be renovated.
He was confronted with the spate of work at the schools as thus; Ijebu-Jesa 20 per cent work done, Otan-Ayegbaju ten per cent, Iwo below one per cent, and Osu, zero per cent, he disclosed that work could have moved beyond the present situation if the government had released fund.
According to him, the Due Process Office assumed that since Professor Aina was always with Oyinlola determining technical education policy in the state, the board was always in the know of the contents of the contract.
The third witness of the day, Mr Mear Dagar, the General Manager of Skill G admitted contrary to the claim of the DG that the company was paid 70 per cent of the contract sum across board as mobilization.
He added that the company never intended to abandon the project, saying they concentrated on Osogbo and Ilesa colleges because the capacity building training was to take place at the centres.
According to him, they are ready to partner with the state government if it is ready to continue with the project, saying the company is committed to the completion of the contracts.
He stated initially that the project was stopped because of shortage of fund, but the chairman of the commission disclosed that they are dissatisfied with the excuse of the company, saying work done at the sites did not justify the 70 per cent mobilization fee paid the company.