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Public Procurement Corruption: Causes, Remedies (1)

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This is a paper he presented in Port Harcourt at a forum organised by the Bureau of Public Procurement.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “procurement is the process of identifying what is needed; determining who is the best person or organization to supply this need; and ensuring what is needed is delivered to the right place, at the right time, for the best price and that all this is done in a fair and open manner”

Public procurement procedures often are complex. Transparency of the processes is limited, and manipulation is difficult to detect. Few people becoming aware of corruption complain publicly, since it is not their own, but government money, which is being wasted. Governments at federal, state, and local levels, spend significant public resources on procurement. Procurement at all levels of government in developing countries like Nigeria typically constitutes about 45 percent of the total Gross Domestic Product (OECD, 2006). These expenditures are critical to enabling governments to deliver goods and services to citizens, but they are also extremely vulnerable to corruption.

For almost a decade now there has been a significant international focus on corruption as a threat to economic and human development. Several multilateral organizations, like the UN, the World Bank, the WTO and OECD, aims at fighting the problem. So far, however, the strategies to transform the alleged practices of a state administration from corrupt to honest and clean have failed in most cases. There are several ways to explain this persistence of corruption. The time it takes to curb the problem may have been underestimated. There may also be a failure in the adjustment of anti-corruption strategies to local conditions. And finally, the incentives to implement the necessary measures may be poor among politicians benefiting from the current system.

However, in countries where corruption is a common problem it tends to disturb the market mechanisms and impede economic development. Corruption in public procurement makes the officials or the politicians in charge, purchase goods or services from the best briber, instead of choosing the best price-quality combination. The result may be construction projects several times as costly as necessary, or the acquisition of goods not actually needed. Hence, when aggregated to a macro-economic level non-optimal choices of contractors can have noticeable effects on the economy.

Also the efforts of public officials to get into position for obtaining bribes may represent a significant cost. Gifted youth often prefer jobs in the bureaucracy instead of more scientific professions, the allocation of public funds may be biased in favour of capital intensive sectors at the expense of health and education, and laws and regulations may be introduced just in order to obtain bribes. Even worse, public sector corruption has a pervasive impact on the poor since it reduces the funding available for social services and distorts public choices in favour of the wealthy and powerful, resulting in larger income differences between rich and poor.

Corruption, as an illegal activity, is difficult to define exactly as different attitudes and customs prevail, for instance when it comes to gift-giving and bureaucratic integrity. However, this paper is mostly concerned about the clear-cut cases, where no doubt about the misuse of public office exists. This is usually the case when the following conditions are all met.

1.First, the act must be intentional and in conflict with the principle of objectivity in public service performance. This implies that the rule that is broken is precise and transparent.

2.Second, the person who breaks the rule must derive some recognizable benefit for him/herself, his family, his friends, his tribe or party, or some other relevant group.

3.Third, the benefit derived must be seen as a direct return from the specific act of “corruption”.

CAUSES

The logic of incentives makes it reasonable to assume that human greed explains most of the bureaucratic corruption. However, in many developing countries, where monthly wages for ordinary officials often are less than $100, the actual need may be an equally prevalent reason. In some cases these wages represent a capitulation wage. According to Besley and McLaren (1993) capitulation wage refers to a situation where the government “capitulates” because corruption is endemic and monitoring does not function. Thus, it makes no sense to revise salaries and the government pays very low wages, aware of the bureaucrats’ ability to manage on bribes and stealing. The bureaucrats’ demand for bribes is understandable under such circumstances. Nevertheless, it is observed in many countries that officials covering their economic need by the help of bribes do not stop when they reach an acceptable standard of living.

The supply side incentives may appear less obvious because bribes often represent a significant cost to a company. Preparing for a tender is a costly and time consuming process and the company may not trust their winning chances on legal basis alone. A bribe may thus ensure that the company obtains the government contract. Corruption may also help companies obtain a de facto monopoly situation, to retain business, to obtain secret information, to counterbalance poor quality or high price, to facilitate trade or investment, or to create demand for goods that otherwise would not have been purchased. Other motives may be to reduce political risk, to receive import licenses, to reduce taxes and attain special modifications of laws or just to induce government employees to perform their duties. Despite the secrecy in these cases, it is not difficult to exemplify incentives from the media and court cases.

The major reason for bribery in public contract assignment, however, is probably because everyone believes that everyone else is involved in such kind of business. Losing a contract because a competitor bribed the officials must be very frustrating. This problem of hidden information is reflected in the way that all the companies involved pay a bribe even if they would be better off with no corruption (prisoner’s dilemma). Hence, the companies that bribe public officials seem to forget the negative externality they impose on other firms, as well as the worsening of their economic environment. For the company involved there are several common drawbacks related to bribery. One is the information about the bribery in hand of the public officials, information applicable to hit the reputation of enterprises, the multinationals in particular. A problem is also enforcement that a bribing company has no judicial guarantee of obtaining what it has paid for (unless the courts are corrupt as well). And, once a company has established a corrupt relationship it may be confronted by unexpected demands for additional payments. Ending a corrupt relationship is often difficult because of the risk of menaces, violence and other criminal activities. Apart from this, close connections to the government may imply a risk in case of political and governmental changes.

Adebowale, is the Managing Partner, Proactive Projective Limited.

 

Seun Adebowale

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E-Call Up System: Truckers Raise Alarm Over Extortion

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Experts in the haulage and logistics supply chain of the maritime sub-sector have raised alarm over alleged hike of the e-call up system introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and managed by Truck Transit Park (TTP) Limited.
The experts lamented that the official N10,000 charges collectible  by TTP Limited allegedly goes for N25,000 per truck, adding that multiple taxation and extortions from the various associations may trigger further  hike in charges of container laden trucks  if not properly addressed.
According to them, gladiators in the political arena are allegedly engaging thugs along the corridors of ports to extort truckers ahead of the 2023 elections .
Chief Executive Officer, Nedu Logistics Solutions Limited, Mr. Kelvin Okechukwu, in a chat with our correspondent in Lagos lamented that despite paying huge amount on call up system to evacuate containers , multiple extortions from the thugs under the guise of representing various associations in haulage activities create more problems for genuine operators in the clearance of cargo from the ports.
He alleged that the monies collected for the call up in recent time have been extremely high for the truckers to pay, calling on the relevant authorities to review the charges because the current N25,000  rate will not go down well for genuine operators.
Okechukwu reiterated that the call up charges now attract about N25,000 officially and with a break down of the new collection, he alleged that “They collect the call up in three phases and each phase attract N10,750 while we the truckers are to pay twice with additional N5,000”.
He further alleged that there are about twelve points manned by security agencies and the  touts thus demand and extort N1000 from truckers at every point along the port corridors.
Along the Apapa/Oshodi corridor, he said, every 500 meters attract a N1000 levy or ticket payable to the various touts claiming to be members of haulage associations and security agencies.
Calling on the government to find lasting solutions to end touting along the port corridors, he said, “I’m telling you authoritatively that those touts on the roads are working for politicians.
“We have done so much to push them out but at the end of the day, they are still there on the road because they have the political backing above.
“We go to police, they will say there is nothing they can do, even when we go to the navy, they will even give them protection.
He lamented that the Police, LASTMA and NPA personnel are not left out of frustrating the genuine haulage operators against the backdrop of the objective of the call up system.
While expressing frustration over the bottlenecks and extortions on cargo movement  from the ports in Lagos, the logistics service provider stated that the call up system was aimed to reduce the challenges faced by truckers and not to create setbacks for operators .
He urged the Federal Government to prioritize the port corridors construction to enable smooth vehicular movement of haulage trucks, noting that the call up has potential to enhance  movement of cargoes from the seaports
On his part, a chieftain of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Arthur Igwilo,  lamented that the multiple extortion has led to the hike in the cost of manufactured goods in Nigerian markets.
Igwilo decried the humiliation and molestation of truck drivers and their assistants in  the hands of thugs, even as he appealed  to the government to put motion in place to eliminate the hiccups affecting trade facilitation.
Attempts to contact officials of TTP Limited proved abortive as messages sent was not replied as at the time of filing this report.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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Usman Challenges  NPA, Staff To Prove Alleged N40bn Fraud

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The suspended Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, has challenged the management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and staff to show proofs of her alleged N40 billion fraud.
Usman also debunked claims that while in office, the agency did not remit N40bn, $921.61m and £289.931.82 into the Federal Government accounts as alleged.
In a statement she personally signed, erstwhile MD claimed that reports of unremitted monies into the federation account by the NPA when she was MD were meant to tarnish her image.
According to her, “Media reports alleging that the Auditor-General of the Federation issued some queries regarding monies being owed the NPA by Terminal Operators have come to my attention.
“Ordinarily, the NPA should clear the air about these allegations, and for this reason, I have refused to make any comments since the news broke.
“However, it is becoming more apparent that tarnishing my image is the primary mission of promoters of the story.
“For instance, several people sent me a social media post with the title: ‘NPA Audit indicts Hadiza Bala Usman for not remitting N40b, $921.61m and £289.931.82 to federal government accounts’.
“I make bold to say that this report is untrue and a fallacy from the imagination of anyone spreading the falsehood.
“I also challenge anyone with proofs of this allegation to present them in public”, she stated.
She further explained that even if there are monies unremitted into the federal government’s accounts, these monies will remain in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) where all revenues generated by the Authority domiciles. In addition, the Authority will have explanations for any audit queries that may arise, whenever they do.
“The report claimed that the imaginary allegations of abuse of office, corrupt enrichment and failure to account for billions of naira led to my purported sack”, she emphasized.
On her sack as the MD, NPA, Usman said she has not received any information or letter of sack from any quarters until this moment.
“I state without any equivocation that I have not received any information about my purported sack from any quarters until this moment.
“I have also not been indicted for any offence as alleged in these increasing lies.

By: Chinedu Wosu

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E-Naira Acceptance Faces Poor Mobile Networks, Other Threats

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Poor mobile networks as well as limited spread of Internet-enabled devices, among others, are currently threatening the acceptance of eNaira across the country, according to a report by Omaplex Law.
Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had in October 2021 introduced its digital currency, called the eNaira, saying it hoped to increase financial inclusion and make cross-border payments easier for enterprises.
The CBN disclosed 400,000 accounts were created and over 12,500 transactions were made within a month of launching eNaira.
The report, titled “Omaplex 365: Nigeria 2022 socio-economic and technological outlook”, stated that the lack of quality mobile networks and the limited spread of Internet-enabled devices have been a significant bottleneck in the acceptance of the eNaira.
“This is so because in most rural regions of Nigeria, network penetration is still heavily dependent on 2G and 3G networks, which spells difficulty for eNaira transactions hinged on the internet.
“Again, owing to the indigent status of a significant fraction of the Nigerian populace, owning Internet-enabled devices may be put on hold in favour of more immediate necessities.
“Accordingly, if the primary stated purpose of the creation and launch of eNaira is to promote financial inclusion, the highlighted issues may pose a threat to achieving that goal”, it stated.
The firm, however, commended the CBN’s efforts to overcome some of the existing obstacles.
“In this circumstance, it is highly commendable that the CBN in a bid to overcome these obstacles has elected to deploy the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data approach in 2022 to reach the most remote parts of the country without relying on network penetration or possessing an internet-enabled device before users can access the numerous benefits that the eNaira provides,” it said.

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