Enugu Assembly unearths messy details in N3.6b primary schools renovation contract
Sordid details that characterised the award of contract for renovation and reconstruction of about 500 primary schools by the Enugu State Universal Education Board (ENSUBEB), were Tuesday uncovered as the state House of Assembly opened a probe into the matter.
The ENSUBEB had last year relied on the Universal Basic Education (UBE) counterpart fund of N3.6 billion in which the state contributed about N1.8 billion to award contracts for the renovation of 500 primary schools in the state.
However, one year after the contracts, which included prefabrication of 27 primary schools as well as re-roofing of others were awarded and
paid for, not much has been done. This prompted the House Committee on Education to embark on a tour of the affected schools in September last, year as part of its oversight function.
At the end of the exercise, the committee, which traversed the length and breadth of the state was unhappy with the manner, which the contract awarded to Enugu-based firm- Emenite Limited were executed.
The committee had reported that the job was being executed at snail speed, adding that low quality materials, which they described as “painted
thick papers,” were being used as roofing sheets.
Chairman of the committee, Mike Onyeze, told his colleagues that what was more disturbing was the fact that the shoddy jobs done by the firm were tolerated by ENSUBEB and the state Ministry of Education, which jointly supervised the projects, adding that several community schools where the jobs were done were complaining over the very poor quality of work.
He said that during their visits, they discovered the existence of some schools without pupils, where the ministry had continued to pay salaries of teachers.
This led the assembly to summon the contractor, the State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Uche Okoro and Chairman, ENSUBEB, Nneka Onuora to appear before it Tuesday.
Speaking on the floor of the House, Onuora told the lawmakers that the contracts were awarded in March last year to Emenite Limited, adding that the company was the only one that bided for the job.
She stated that no agreement was entered with the company on the scope and delivery time frame for the jobs, even as she specified the scope of work to include re-roofing and prefabrication of some schools.
She stated that the ENSUBEB paid 100 percent for the prefabricated school buildings as well as 70 percent for the re-roofing before the contractor mobilised to site.
The ENSUBEB chairman observed that Emenite Limited was simply overwhelmed by the magnitude and scope of work that the contract entails, regretting that lack of capacity contributed immensely to hindering delivery of the jobs.
“It is unfortunate, but the issue here is misunderstanding. Emenite Limited is a roofing company and they are roofing the schools. It is not that no
work has been done. The only thing I can honestly say is that I don’t think they were prepared for the magnitude of jobs. I think it was just poorly planned and that has led to somewhat low performance. I can say the quality of their building is the best and that is why they were chosen. It is just capacity that they lack, and it is unfortunate, it was poorly planned. This is inexperience and my first time of embarking on a job of such magnitude,” she said.
She stated that currently the board had only 10 supervising engineers after it was made to sack many of them last year, saying it was responsible for the low supervision of the jobs.
On why ENSUBEB should violate due process and pay up front, 100 per cent of a contract sum, without the job being executed, Education Commissioner Okoro said those who awarded contracts for the jobs had their reasons for doing so.
“Going by the procurement law, it is not proper. But those who did it had their reasons. I think this is a special case where acquisition of material is important and perhaps that could be why they paid 100 per cent,” he said.
Okoro said that the contracts were awarded “from the Enugu State Government House, Enugu.”
A representative of the Managing Director of Emenite, Mr. Onyeka Orah, a technical engineer, said the company had not been able to execute the
contracts following its inability to access the schools due to bad
state of roads.
He said that so far 21 prefabricated buildings had been completed and handed over; while about 234 others had been re-roofed, adding that the company was still working to complete the projects.
Orah drew the ire of the lawmakers who threatened to detain him, following his response to questions on how much funds were paid to him for the job as well as his claims that the projects could not be accessed due to the rains.
He said the company was paid over N300m when the lawmakers said records available to it showed that he was paid over N600m.
Speaker of the State Assembly, Eugene Odo, at the hearing blasted the contractor for not being serious, stressing that her attitude suggests that the firm never intended to execute the contract.
The house adjourned till today for further discussion on the matter.
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