‘Lack of professionals in procurement, bane of sector’
Muhammed Aliyu is the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management of Nigeria (CIPSMN). He spoke on the challenges of the sector and calls for the recognition of professionals to check misappropriation and contract inflation. He told VICTOR GBONEGUN that the institute hopes to use its yearly conference in Lagos, to educate Nigerians on the importance of procurement to economic recovery. Excerpt:
What has been the challenge since you assumed office as registrar of CIPSMN?
I would say there are enormous challenges particularly from the sector’s specialists who don’t want to acquire knowledge in a particular area but would like to practise.
The situation is that people who are not competent are being saddled with the responsibility to conduct national affairs in a society that is so blessed with enormous material and mineral resources but is swimming in abject poverty.
We are educating Nigerians that it’s high time we did things in the right way.
The World Bank carried out a study in conjunction with the institute and the findings revealed that about 80 to 90per cent of the total budget of any country goes into procurement contract and services while the other 10per cent is for other sectors’ specialists.
Procurement is a field that everybody wants to go into not realising that it’s not buying but when we are talking about procurement, it means the industrial aspect of the process, which is based on the techniques involved in conducting the affair.
We have been educating the public and government that procurement is a profession only for the certified individuals.
When you don’t leave it for professionals, you see contract inflation and the 10per cent issue that you often hear about, the handlers call that 10per cent to indicate fraud in the system.
There are concerns on the issue of accountability and transparency in the procurement process, how do we really tackle the challenge?
Very simple, allow the professionals to do the job so that there won’t be misappropriation.
Lack of professionals in procurement, is the bane of the sector.
For example, the issue of Dasuki-gate which is still on ground till today, we all know that the money was meant to procure arms to fight the menace of Boko Haram but it was allegedly distributed among some few people.
There is a process of awarding contracts because contract is not supposed to be split.
But you find out that people are splitting contracts and only professionals can tell us that it is unethical to do bid rigging.
Taxpayers should ask authorities how their money is being spent when it comes to the acquisition of materials, services and works.
See potholes everywhere, do they use the right materials to construct them.
See the issue of building collapse, aircraft crashing, do they use the appropriate materials for them?
What are you doing to check quackery in the profession?
We have been holding conferences, seminars and mandatory courses.
For example, our conference holding today would educate people, bring in people from diverse areas to know what procurement is all about.
Procurement is the acquisition of goods, works and services and so anybody that is saddled to do that must be very lettered.
If you don’t know the concept of procurement and the mechanism involved in the business negotiation then you negotiate yourself or your organisation out of it.
In business, you don’t get what you deserve but what you negotiate and that is what is happening in the political arena too.
The politicians know how to get the electorate by distributing money and the electorate don’t realise that the politicians are buying their conscience and their future.
Till today, where we talk about corruption in the country, none of our members has been caught in the act. Those who are caught are not professionals.
To tackle the challenge is to allow the professionals to do procurement so that there won’t be misappropriation.
The benefits of procurement are not seen in the country today because we have failed to imbibe the principles of procurement and until we imbibe them, stealing will continue.
You lamented that government doesn’t recognise the expertise of professionals in procurement, why is this happening?
Those in government are not following the due process of procurement because everybody wants to get rich quickly without carrying the masses along, without thinking of the country’s development and best international practice.
I often tell people that procurement is the only profession that leads while others follow.
Procurement is as old as man and could be traced to the Bible and Holy Quran.
Yet it hasn’t been given the necessary recognition and that is why we face the problems of corruption and everybody wants to engage in the art of buying and selling without having what it takes to do so.
Public procurement has been a big problem because those who are saddled with power want to continue to siphon the wealth of the country.
What is your assessment of the sector since the Act that established the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) came on board in 2007?
Since the Act 14 of 2007 came on board as the Bureau of Public Procurement, it has been a big problem because those who are saddled to carry out the job don’t know it.
For example, there is supposed to be a council to regulate public procurement issues but the council, of which the media is also a member, hasn’t been inaugurated.
It is only the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management that has been shouting on the need for the inauguration of the council. We need to ask whether the making of that law means we should just keep it?
Any procurement that is not planned means there won’t be budget for it but we are still doing things the wrong way.
In that law, it is also stated that before a bid is opened, agencies should be called to come and witness the opening of the bid.
But in a situation where organisations collect the bid and don’t allow outsiders to monitor it, is against the ethics of the process.
The due process stated that the law must be followed to the letter.
Some states even refused to make a law on procurement except Lagos State and I think other states must follow.
Before you can access any loan from the World Bank, they would want to know if you have the procurement law on ground.
Why is it that the council hasn’t been inaugurated?
It hasn’t been inaugurated because of the nefarious activities some people in government want to carry out.
If the council is inaugurated, it will be able to check and correct anything that is not in order.
The professionals are not saddled to do the job in the Bureau of Public Procurement.
The first director general wasn’t a professional in procurement. Any area you want to practise, make sure you are certified in the field.
The trade union which is supposed to take action, some of them would have gone to shake hands with the authority and on coming back, they would say they are looking at it.
It is one of the things that work against us in this country; you can never see anyone who wants to put things in the right shape.
We have suggested to the government at several fora that things should be done with due process.
There is no way you can get someone from the street and put him or her in a field where he lacks competence or training.
He has no credential to show for it and you trust he can do that job.
What are your concerns about reviving the Nigeria Airways having worked in that field before?
Aviation is a capital-intensive industry, individuals can’t run it, it’s only a conglomerate that can run it effectively.
But you will find out that some people will come with two aircraft and name their business for example, E-aircraft or D-aircraft.
But why can’t they come together and run it?
Government can run aviation effectively but the challenge is the people saddled to do that job.
If we are reviving the Nigeria Airways, is it Nigerians that are going to run it? We need to establish that standing because shortly when the whites left, the Nigeria Airways collapsed.
I am surprised to hear some people say government shouldn’t have hands in the business.
Tell us about your forthcoming yearly conference?
We are using the conference to create awareness so that people would see things for themselves and ask questions once they realise that their money is not used judiciously.
The conference will educate people on what is involved in procurement/supply chain management because some see it as a moneymaking venue once they hear that someone is in procurement.
We also want to let them know that financial audit is different from procurement audit.
Financial audit deals with naira and kobo whereas procurement auditing has to do with the x-ray of the whole circle.
The programme will also enlighten participants about what is material asset misappropriation.
For example, the civil servants in some States are not paid their salaries, with that sad development how would they function effectively?
It thus means that you’re teaching them to steal which CIPSMN as a body tries to discourage.
We are bringing in four senior government officials and they include, the Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to be recognised for the state’s investment in infrastructure, particularly in transport as the key for any nation.
We are inviting the Akwa Ibom State governor, the governor of Adamawa State and another governor, which makes it the fourth. CIPSMN only recognizes people based on what they have achieved.
How do we mitigate the problem of moving goods from one location to another especially, election materials as we head to the 2019 polls?
I have heard authorities say that election materials can’t be moved along with other materials or that hoodlums always hijack them but I remark that it’s not true.
If the responsibility were given to the professionals, they would code the materials in such a way that only a professional person would be able to decipher which of the items is for election, be it presidential, national, or governorship election materials.
If anybody steals it, it would become useless to him or her.
For example, if you come to the store and I said James bring ‘BMN’; it’s only the professional who understands the language who would decode it.
The materials would be coded and moved and you might decide to move the last item that would be used as the first and so if it is hijacked, it will be useless.
Those that hijacked election materials know which items have been moved and so the European Union has advised the government to employ professionals in the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to render such services.
Electoral items can be coded in such a way that people working in INEC wouldn’t even know which items are sensitive materials and which aren’t in the warehouse. Procurement is a very technical area, which is not meant for everybody.