The Minister of Communications, Barrister Abdulraheem Adebayo Shittu on Sunday said contrary to reports and claims by the Senate Committee on Communication that he abandoned some federal government projects, he did not abandon any of the projects.
Shittu who said that one of the reasons for the delay in executing the projects was due to the delay in the approval of the budget which took the National Assembly seven months to approve, however, insisted that he had saved the federal government six-hundred-million Naira (N600m) with the efforts he made to look critically at the petitions which were written against the procurement department in the ministry among other efforts in the contacts included in the 2018 budget of the ministry.
On Thursday, DAILY POST, recalls that the Senate committee on Communication bemoans what it described as the ministry’s poor budget performance. The committee said it was difficult for the sum of 18.1 billion to be approved for the Ministry of Communications, saying that the ministry’s performance as regards the 2018 budget was poor.
The Committee sitting presided over by Senator Isah Hamman Misau, who stood in for its Chairman, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, observed that the Communication ministry’s 2019 budget was reduced by N1.6b less than that of 2018. It lamented that 17 projects out of the 121 budgeted for, were receiving attention two months to the end of 2018 budget year.
The Committee while describing the situation as worrisome observed that out of 121 capital projects approved and appropriated in 2018, just about 17 projects have reached varying degrees of completion, leaving a larger percentage either not funded or executed at all.
But Shittu while reacting said that it will be inconceivable to say that any of the current ministers abandon any federal government projects, as he remarked that, “President Muhammadu Buhari could not have made any mistake by appointing any of the current ministers which took him six months to do”.
Shittu declared that he saved the Federal government 600 million Naira with the decision he took to ensure transparency in the award of the ministry’s contacts in the 2018 budget.
The Minister while addressing reporters at his Samonda, Ibadan residence said that it will be a misnormal to say that any project has been abandoned by his ministry as claimed by the Senate committee.
He said, “To start with, it is inconceivable, that any minister abandon any federal government projects and I want to believe that President Muhammadu Buhari could not have made any mistake by appointing any of the current ministers. It took him six months, and he has done a thorough job and I am happy that none of us has disappointed him nor disappointed Nigerians. So it is inconceivable that a minister will abandon federal government projects.
“The meaning of abandoning, you start something and you then dissociate, discontinued. But in this case the contracts or the projects which are subject matter of discussion are not yet commenced at all. They are not yet even been awarded. So the proper thing would be, properly speaking that there is delay in awarding the contracts. So, it will be a misnormal to say that any project has been abandoned. Number two. Now they are accusing me of delay, something must have caused the delay.
“To start with, it took the National Assembly seven months to approve the budget, out of the 12 months of the budge life. The next thing is that, to award a contract, fund must be available, and also must be allocated for the specific project. And you will recall that the current system is what we called the envelope system because each project is in its own envelope.
“So, to award any contract, then there must be not only approval but it must also be released. After the release, the procurement department of the ministry commenced work, the Ministerial tender board meeting was held six weeks ago, if there is no ministerial tender board meeting, then there is noting for the minister to be approved. And there is nothing for the ministry to award.
“Six weeks ago, the ministerial tender board met and sent their final report to me for my approval. As the board was coming in, we had a number of petitions protesting against the fact that there were suspicion deals by the procurement department. As an apostle of President Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade, I cannot turn the other eye, I must look at the petitions, and what I did was that, it set up a committee within the ministry which was inaugurated by the new permanent Secretary two weeks ago. The report of that committee was turned in to the Permanent Secretary only last Monday.
“And as at the time we went to the committee, the report has not yet even gotten to me. And when we met the Senate committee and House of Representatives, I made this known to them and told them that there has been a delay in view of these issues, but I assured them that by this Tuesday, all the contracts would have been concluded.
“So, in such a situation, how do you talk of abandonment? Understandably, most Senate and House of Representatives members are interested in constituency projects which are part of these projects. But, we must also, despite that, be very diligent in accessing and from the little work I have done, the background work regards the committee’s report, copy of which was given to me.
“The exercise I embarked on would be saving the federal government six hundred million Naira, six hundred million Naira. That means if I had not taken that step, six hundred million Naira would have gone. I saved the federal government six hundred million Naira with the efforts I have made.”