Reps panel, Fashola disagree over $1.5bn loan, German consultant
House of Representatives committee on power yesterday disagreed with the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola over the $1.5 billion loan it obtained for electricity distribution in the country.The loan was obtained on behalf of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
This was revealed at an investigative hearing by the committee on power on the interim management of the TCN over a $1.5 billion World Bank loan facility and its adherence to the Fiscal Responsibility and Public Procurement Acts.Disagreement also ensued over delay in the execution of the National Electricity and Gas Improvement Project (NEGIP).
But Fashola said his productive time was being wasted due to duplicitous nature of the probes over the activities of his ministry. He urged the House leadership to streamline the number of hearings involving his ministry so that he could concentrate on the task of achieving results. His words: ”We have a letter dated December 20, 2017 and that letter is issued under the name of one Nnamdi D. Onuigwe Esq, Committee Clerk.
“The letter from the House stated that it had constituted an ad-hoc committee to investigate the Fiscal Responsibility and Procurement Acts by the TCN. It was pursuant to House resolution 114/ADHOT/TCN2 of the 20 December.
”Now, we were waiting to be invited by the ad hoc committee when we got this letter asking us to come today, signed by Committee Clerk, Ibrahim Sidi, pursuant to House resolution 189 of 5th December 2017.”
Fashola also faulted the committee decision to hire a German consultant, Ron Van Arnault, who he accused of working for Manitoba, a company that he said, caused the problems faced by TCN leading to the probe.He argued that the consultant apart from having worked for Manitoba, also benefited from contracts awarded without procurement approval in the ministry, and would not be totally professional in providing advice to the committee.
He explained that the procurement of TCN facilities were contracted out even before the assumption of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, adding the major preoccupation of the ministry was to execute the projects and ensure the distribution of 7,135 megawatts generated across the country.
But Chairman of the Committee, Daniel Asuquo insisted that Fashola lacked the powers to determine who the committee engages as consultant.Asuquo alleged that he had text messages exchanged between Fashola and the consultant where the minister solicited his professional advice. He said: “Just as you have your reasons for taking decisions, I also have my reasons for hiring Ron and it’s not up to you to question our decision”Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara restated the commitment of the legislature to tackling challenges in the power sector.