The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has advocated the use of technology to reduce delays and promote accountability and transparency in the state’s procurement procedures.
Obaseki made the call at a one-day procurement workshop, themed, “Public Procurement: Complying with the Law, Eliminating Delays,” held at the John Odigie-Oyegun Public Service Academy in Benin City.
He said, "We are trying to ensure that we deliver services promptly to our citizens, and when we delay, we increase the cost significantly for the government.
“There is a need for us to take the process of procurement very seriously. We are improving value retention with better quality work being done in all spheres, including roads and buildings, among others, and showing that something is going on right in our procurement process but the bad habit of the past is still present with some of us.”
Obaseki continued: “Hence, this workshop is to remind us that the process of procurement is very important for us as it is about obtaining value for the money put under our care, and remind us of the expectations and behaviours expected of us which if we don't abide by, the system suffers.
“We fail to realize that we are holding public trust. Taxpayers’ revenues are appropriated and put under our care to procure goods and services. Is that process of procuring using money under our care for the generality of our people being done right or abused?
“We are one of the first states to have adopted e-procurement and promulgated a law to support the process.”
According to him, “When you go against the provisions of the procurement act, you're doing something criminal and it's justiceable. So, if you have not read the procurement laws of 2020, please do so to avoid being easy targets for prosecution as ignorance is not an excuse.
“We have now passed that stage where you can just do it and get away with it. There are legal repercussions. Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries procuring in their agencies without a procurement planning committee can be charged and put in prison. A few senior public officials are being investigated now and unfortunately, they are going to be tried for things like this and that is going to be the way going forward.”
“When you look at the procurement law against a cashless society, it becomes easy to just see and explain how things have happened.”
The governor further added, “Things are changing. It has become easy to analyse huge amounts of data through technology. Also, people talk and it is very difficult to undertake a crime alone. There is so much information available today that it is increasingly difficult today to keep secrets. So, it's important to do things properly. The e-government platform is also there to help us deliver services properly to our citizens
“We have one of the strongest procurement agencies in the country and today, states come to understudy our procurement process. We know what to do so we must do what we need to do.”
On his part, the Managing Director, Edo State Public Procurement Agency, Mr. Henry Idogun, noted that the hallmarks of proficient public procurement are fairness, reliability, economy, efficiency, transparency, competitiveness, accountability, and ethical standards.
“There should be broad participation by various firms and contractors bidding for a contract rather than limiting it to just a few as the process will open. That way, we will be getting the best. We must be ethical in our procedures as you use public funds for what they are meant for,” he added.