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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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CBN Assures On Depositors’ Fund Safety 

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Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has reassured the banking public of the safety of their deposits and the banking system’s resilience.
CBN’s Acting Director of  Corporate Communications Department, Mrs Hakama Sidi-Ali, gave the assurance in a statement on  Monday in Abuja.
The statement, a response to concerns raised about the stability of some Nigerian banks in the wake of Heritage Bank Plc’s license revocation, faulted claims that the CBN was considering revoking the operating licences of Fidelity, Polaris, Wema, and Unity Banks.
It also clarified that a circular issued by the Bank on January 10, 2024, notifying the public about the dissolution of the Boards of Union, Keystone, and Polaris Banks, was currently being circulated as though it was freshly issued.
According to the Director, Heritage Bank’s case was isolated.
“Allegations of further revocation of licences prior to the completion of CBN’s recapitalisation exercise are mere fabrications aimed at creating panic within the system”, Sidi-Ali said.
She stated that bank customers, particularly those of Heritage Bank, need not worry about the safety of their deposits, adding that the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) had commenced payment to the bank’s insured depositors.
The spokesperson urged members of the public to continue their regular banking activities without fear, dismissing any false reports regarding the health of specific Deposit Money Banks.
“The CBN, with its robust regulatory framework, is proactively ensuring the stability of Nigeria’s financial system, thereby guaranteeing the safety of depositors’ funds in all Nigerian financial institutions”, she said.
Sidi-Ali reiterated the assurances of the CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, that the recapitalisation of banks in Nigeria was intended to bolster the banking system and safeguard the sector against risks.

She urged all stakeholders to cooperate in ensuring the success of the process, which she said would be for the overall growth of the Nigerian economy.

“Without prejudice to the ongoing recapitalisation process, I want to restate that the Nigerian banking industry remains resilient. Key financial soundness indicators remain within current regulatory thresholds.

“Customers are, therefore, encouraged to proceed with their transactions as usual, as the CBN is committed to ensuring the safety of the banking system”, she said

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NERC Approves New Tariff Hike For Port Harcourt DisCo

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In spire of calls that the recently hiked “Band A” tariff be reversed, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has approved a new tariff hike for the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (DisCo).
NERC permitted the PHED to raise tariffs for Band A customers categorised as Maximum Demand 2 Special (A – MD2 Special).
MD customers are customers that have a load of 45kVA and above. They also operate and maintain their dedicated transformers.
From N206 per kilowatt-hour, this category of customers within the Port Harcourt franchise will now pay N225/KWh.
In a regulatory instrument tagged June 2024 Supplementary Order to the Multi-Year Tariff Order – 2024 (“June 2024 Supplementary Order”) for Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Plc, the NERC said the tariff approval was under the Tariff Review Application by PHED.
“Further to Section 23 of the MYTO-2024, this Supplementary Order seeks to reflect the changes in the pass-through indices outside the control of licensees including inflation rates, naira/dollar exchange rate, available generation capacity and gas price for the determination of Cost-Reflective Tariffs”, NERC stated.
The electricity regilator emphasised the basis for the review, saying the Naira to the US Dollar exchange rate of N1,469.06 per dollar has been adopted for June to December 2024. It said this has been determined by adding a 1 per cent transaction cost to the average foreign exchange rate of N1,454.52 during the period May 1 to 24, 2024 as obtained from the website of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
It also added that the Nigerian inflation rate of 33.69 per cent for April 2024 as published by the National Bureau of Statistics was applied to revise the Nigerian inflation rate projection for 2024.
“Under Section 116 of the Electricity Act and extant regulations, the commission has considered and approved for PHED, the tariffs (in Table 2) effective 1st June 2024. The approved tariffs shall remain in force subject to monthly adjustments of pass-through indices including inflation rates, naira/dollar exchange rates and gas-to-power prices.
“In line with the policy direction of the Federal Government of Nigeria on electricity subsidy, the allowed tariffs for Bands B – E customer categories shall remain frozen at the rates payable since December 2022 subject to further policy direction by the government.
“With this policy, the estimated subsidy benefit for customers under the PHED franchise in 2024 is approximately N11.49bn monthly”, the NERC stated.
In April, the NERC announced a new tariff for customers in Band A, from N68/KWh to N225/KWh.
It later reduced the tariff to N206.80/KWh based on the rebound of the naira.
Meanwhile, organised labour and manufacturers have kicked against the Band A tariff.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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AMJON Partners School To Train Journalists On Maritime Operations 

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The Association of Maritime journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) has gone into a mutually beneficial collaboration with School of Eloquence to strengthen the capacity and reporting skills of Maritime journalists.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by the Chairman, AMJON Organising Committee, Mr. Segun Oladipupo and made available to our correspondent in Lagos on Monday.
According to the statement, “This year’s edition, tagged “Special Edition”, is a collaborative effort between the foremost Public Speaking training School,  School of Eloquence and AMJON”.
Oladipupo said the training is slated to hold on Friday at the School of Eloquence premises at Osborne Road, Ikoyi.
“Experts from the Nigeria Customs Service, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and School of Eloquence have been lined up to train journalists on the rudiments of their own operations”, according to the statement.
Speaking, the President of AMJON, Paul Ogbuokiri, said journalism required constant training to be in tune with evolving trends in the industry.
According to him, journalism has taken a leap from what it used to be and journalists need to equip themselves with modern journalism tools that will help them to catch up with the trends.
“We need constant training and restraining to be relevant in this age of journalism. If we fail to update ourselves, we will soon fizzle out,
“This partnership with the School of Eloquence is a right step in the right direction. It will no doubt, energise our knowledge of reportage”, he stated.
On his part, the Chairman, Organising Committee, Segun Oladipupo, said the event would afford members the opportunity to take their reporting to enviable height
He, therefore, enjoined participants to seize the opportunity to learn new trends in journalism and also learn the business side of the job.
He thanked the School of Eloquence for providing a platform for Nigerian journalists to take a flight in their daily assignment.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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