Dataphyte review of the Oyo State Open Contracting portal has shown that secondary school notebook contracts awarded up to N998 million between August 2019 and December 2020 have been subject to contract inflation, fraudulent contract bidding and contract ambiguity.
The contract, awarded in three batches, is to supply customised notebooks for secondary schools in the state. The first set of twelve contracts totalling N456.504 million was awarded on August 28, 2019.
The second set was awarded in June 2020, with a total value of N94.196 million and described as “production of second batch exercise books for students of public secondary schools in the state”.
Third set awarded in December 2020, at N446.370 million was for the supply of 212,505 copies of sixty leaves notebooks. The description stated the notebooks are meant for the 2020/2021 session of public secondary schools in the state.
Contract Inflation: Should a copy of Sixty Leaves Notebook Cost N2,100?
The December 2020 contract raises concerns as to why it will take N446.370 million to supply 212,505 copies of sixty leaves notebooks. On the open contracting portal announcing the award of the contract, this is the description for this particular award “Production of 212,505 copies of 60 leaves customised exercise books for students of Public secondary schools for the 2020/2021 academic session” and this would be supplied at the contract value of N446, 370, 480.
By this budget each copy of the 60 leaves notebook cost the state N2,100 to print.
But should one customised sixty leaves notebook cost N2,100?
Checks by Dataphyte show that a non-customised Sixty leaves notebook in Mokola, Ibadan, costs a hundred naira (N100).
Dataphyte sought quotations for a similar description of goods from printing presses and the quotes put each copy of customised notebook at between N200 and N230, one printing press offered N158 per copy of Sixty leaves customised notebook, also, the higher the number of copies, the lesser the price for each copy. At the maximum cost of N230, 212,505 copies should cost around N48,876,150.
The quoted price by the state government appears exaggerated even if other services like delivery of the notebooks to each school and design of the customised pages were factored into the costs
In case of supply of one sixty leaves notebook for N2100 in December, 2020, the Public Procurement act states that;
“The Bureau may refuse to issue a certificate of No Objection to Contract Award on grounds that the price is excessive.”
Project Awarded to Contract Splitting Companies
Aside from the inflated cost of contracts, Dataphyte’s investigation shows that three of the four companies awarded contracts on December 17,2020 are owned by the same individual.
Of the four contractors who won the contracts three, Jeda Global Ventures, Insider Multipurpose Ventures and Sure Etiquette Media Plus Limited, are all owned by Mr Oriyomi Hamzat Abdulrahman.
Mr Oriyomi Hamzat is a renowned broadcaster who recently founded Agidigbo FM in Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo State. Mr Oriyomi is known for social justice activism and was arrested in 2018 by the department of state security before he was released after fifteen days in detention.
In 2021, Governor Makinde commended Hamzat over Agidigbo FM, noting that the government was willing to support the station to thrive.
In 2020 Mr. Oriyomi had registered two different companies on the same day, Jeda Global Ventures and Insider Multipurpose Ventures were registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission on the same day, September 8, 2020.
And two months after registration, these companies won a contract from the state government.
Both firms also operate from the same office location and space at 2nd floor, Salinsile building, Kajola bus stop, Monatan, Iwo road. Further scrutiny suggested these two companies were registered to specifically bid for the project.
While the OYO OCP misspelt the company, investigation revealed “Sure Ettiquette Media Plus Limited ” (with a double t), existed on the CAC portal, and registered to the same location as the other two companies above.
Sure Etiquette is however listed as an inactive company on the CAC portal.
Checks by Dataphyte showed the third company listed as ‘Sure Etiquette Media Plus Limited’ on the Open Contracting Portal of Oyo state, is also owned by Hamzat Oriyomi.
A Facebook post in 2019 also links the firm to Oriyomi Hamzat.
One person fronting for the same contract with multiple organisations is against section 16 8(g) provisions of the public procurement act.
Section 16 (8g) of the act further forbids a bidder to have a relationship with other parties in the same proceedings, that is a relationship with other bidders vying for the same contract”.
A Certificate of No objection may not be issued in the case where “The bidder fails to submit a statement regarding its dominating or subsidiary relationships with respect to other parties in the proceedings and persons acting on behalf of the procuring entity participating in same proceedings or whom remains in subordinate relationship with other participants to the proceedings”.
Against Procurement Laws, Oyo State Awards Contracts to Inactive companies.
Memos on SMEs inclusion and COVID-19 emergency procurement process published by the state and seen by Dataphyte did not include any waivers for inactive companies to bid for contracts.
In the December 2020 contract awards, two of the listed organisations, OPALS multinational Resources Limited and Sure Ettiquette Media Plus were inactive on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) portal.
Also, the twelve contracts worth N446.7 million awarded on August 28, 2019 for production of customised books went to seven firms. All 7 companies’ are inactive as of the time of this report, they are; Tripple I Global Resources, Sure Etiquette Media Plus, Leecon Synergy Limited, A.D.G multisystems Limited, ASP Integrated ventures and Rehoboth ventures apartments, found on the Corporate Affairs Commission Portal were inactive.
The Oyo State Assembly Printing Press also got a contract.
The Oyo State Public Procurement Act, 2010, Section 8 (d), listed conditions for a company not receiving a contract award and it includes “The bidder is in arrears regarding payment of due taxes, charges, pensions or social insurance contributions except such bidder as received a lawful permit”.
Any company listed as inactive is in contravention of one or more of the requirements listed in the section.
Barrister Awosusi Kehinde (Esq), a legal expert, reinforced the provisions of the Act, that it is illegal for inactive companies to be awarded contracts.
Oriyomi Denies Foul Play
When contacted, Mr. Oriyomi Hamzat, confirmed that he owns Jeda Global Ventures, Insider Multipurpose Ventures and Sure Etiquette Media Plus, three of the four companies that won contract awards in December 2020.
He however, denied any foul play on his part. According to him, he was not a part of the contract process and only allowed his friends to use his organisations to bid for contracts with the Oyo state government.
He noted that he was not aware of the details of the contract. “I am not a printer but some persons approached me asking that they use my organisations to get contracts from the Oyo state government, a development I allowed them to carry out. I however do not know of the contract details nor know how much was paid to them for such”
When probed further, he declined any further comments, noting that he already stated a position and as such he is unwilling to speak further on the matter.
Mr Oriyomi’s denials of foul play and details of the contract ring hollow especially because the two companies he registered in September 2020 received the contract awards, fortuitously, just two months after registration.
His admittance of allowing his company to be used for bidding for contracts that he was not aware of could be tantamount to misrepresentation and a contravention of the Section 16 (8g) requiring that full disclosure be made for persons representing entities in the procuring process.
It is unclear why the Bureau of Public Procurement in the state failed to object to the award of contracts to these organisations, given its oversight function and a need to issue a certificate of no objection in line with provisions of the Oyo State procurement laws.
When Dataphyte reached out, the respondent at the Bureau who spoke refused to identify himself and declined comments on the development.
This report was first published by Data Phyte