Jan 25, 2017 - The attention of the Office of the Hon. Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN has been drawn to another sensational offering from the platform of the Premium Times.
Without doubt, the so called "Special Report" with the screaming headline "Works Minister, Fashola, in N166 billion contract mess" fits perfectly into an emerging pattern by Premium Times to create fiction, avoid obvious facts and sensationalise headlines in order to draw attention and sell its struggling platform.
Barely two weeks ago, the same Premium Times published a similarly fabricated report with the mischievous headline,"EXCLUSIVE: Buhari administration plotting to break Nigerian law in award of $800 million contract."
It is a known fact that the media industry, like other sectors, in the economy, faces challenges thrown up by the recession. Indeed, the challenges of the media industry precede the recession. However, while the Federal Government and well meaning Stakeholders, including the media, are working assiduously to address the challenges, constantly muckraking and deliberately maligning public officials and institutions should not replace the age long responsibility of the media to hold government accountable to the populace.
Examining the mischievous report published by Premium Times readily shows the obvious contradictions and the less than altruistic intentions therein.
To start with, the report established the fact that there was an Evaluation Committee made up of a Chairman and Members who are ranking professionals in their own right. Even by its own admission, the report that went to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) was the work of the Evaluation Committee which does not have the Hon. Minister as member.
Except the publication was insinuating that the Committee colluded to perpetrate fraud for itself and the Ministry, which is not the case, then going to town about "Fashola" being in a "contract mess"leaves much to be desired.
The Premium Times contradicted itself by alleging a "contract mess" and yet admitted that the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing followed Due Process by advertising projects to be awarded and sending the list of selected contractors to the Bureau of Public Procurement. If the Ministry does what is expected of it by law and the institution of Government that it went to did its job, in what way does it amount to a "mess"?
It is pertinent to inform Nigerians that as at this moment, no new contracts have been awarded to date based on the 2016 Appropriation and as such no single kobo has been paid. The 'contract mess'which Premium Timessought to mislead Nigerian citizens with is an exchange of correspondence between two government institutions to which the Ministry has adequately responded.
It is worrisome that whilst Premium Timesdevoted its journalistic energy to the correspondence from the Bureau of Public Procurement, it failed to inform its readers of the response of the Ministry which comprehensively addressed all the issues raised in the Bureau's referenced report. Is journalism now a one-way traffic?
For the avoidance of doubt, the statutory role of the Bureau of Public Procurement is to vet contracts to be awarded depending on the threshold. At the end of its work, it either issues a Due Process Certificate of 'No Objection' or withholds it. Indeed, even if it issues a Certificate of No Objection, the last approving authority for the threshold of jobs so sensationally reported by Premium Times is the Federal Executive Council and not the Hon. Minister or the Permanent Secretary of the Awarding Ministry. It should be noted that the BPP has the final decision on contract prices and in previous memos from the Ministry, the Bureau had reviewed the cost of contracts.
In a regime emphasising Due Process and underscoring efficient institutions, it should be a source of worry if the BPP certifies every piece of document that goes to it as being okay. So rather than sensationalise public institutions doing its job, it would be advisable for media organisations to educate its personnel on how the procurement system works.
Indeed, it is curious to note, that the frivolous allegations being published by Premium Times and most times often instantly "boosted" across social media platforms seems to have gained currency with the resolve of the Federal Government under the leadership of President Muhammdu Buhari to make budgets work for the people through faithful execution of projects across the country. In the locust years of miserable budgetary allocations to capital development, with scant regard for Due Process, it would seem all was well. A question that should aptly end this clarification meant to set the records straight is: "What do 'they' want?"