A member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a former commissioner in Edo State under the Oshiomhole administration, Kassim Afegbua, has defended the former governor’s actions in regards to the upfront payment of 75% for the construction of the Edo Specialist Hospital.
Oshiomhole had come under fire for allegedly breaching the state’s Public Procurement Law (during his tenure) which states that any contractor working on a government project should not receive more than 25% upfront payment upon the award of a contract.
But according to Afegbua, the 75% upfront payment was done in view of the fact that the equipment are state of the art items and also, “so that the company would not default in terms of manufacturing them”.
“These are not items you can buy across the counter. They are items that have to be manufactured to suit specifications,” he said on Wednesday during an interview on Channels TV’s Politics Today.
Afegbua further explained that Section 47 of the procurement law, however, contains some exceptions which include that “in the event that you are going to pay more than 25%, there has to be a written request from the company. There also has to be a bank guarantee and or, an insurance bond to ensure that when you pay such amount of money, the contractor will not run away from site.
“So what we did as an EXCO, a body for which Governor Obaseki was part and parcel, was not out of place,” he said.
His comments were in response to allegations by Andrew Emwanta, the Senior Special Adviser on Public Affairs to Governor Obaseki, against the Oshiomhole administration.
Emwanta who was also a guest on the programme, had stated that not only was the payment of the 75% a breach of the law, but no equipment were actually delivered.
Speaking further, the SSA alleged that when President Muhammadu Buhari came to commission the hospital towards the end of Oshiomhole’s government, the equipment in the hospital were all hired from Lagos.
After the commissioning, according to him, the equipment were returned and the hospital was placed under lock and key.
“So when I hear the former governor talk about how the place was locked, he himself, locked the hospital.
“When the (new) governor came, the hospital was opened and we discovered that there were no equipment because when they hired these equipment from Lagos, before Oshiomhole left the government, they returned this equipment and there is no way the government can conceal such a public trust because health is at the core of every government policy,” Emwata said.
But Afegbua debunked the claims about the hired equipment, noting that the hospital is 75% ready in terms of equipment, 100% ready in terms of structure and set to function.
He also insisted that Governor Obaseki was not only aware of the process but was at the time, a member of the EXCO who saw to the execution of the payment plan.
“When we were approving that contract in 2016, as a government, as an EXCO, Governor Godwin Obaseki was our colleague then. He was part and parcel of the EXCO.
“He also was one of those who gave advice that it would be better for us to have a 75% advance payment so that we can meet the fluctuations that were imminently going to happen as a result of our Naira devaluation,” he said.
According to him, “the same government on September 18, 2018, wrote a letter of commendation to Vamed (the Contractors) for having fulfilled the terms of contract of supply of equipment to that hospital.
“For you to now set up a commission of enquiry indicting us, it means that Obaseki is also indicted so, If he wants to try us, he should also remove his immunity and join us in the dock so that we can be tried together”.
Speaking further, the PDP spokesperson said he believes that the present government has deliberately refused to bring in and train personnel that would utilize the “sophisticated” equipment at the hospital, all in the bid to blackmail the past administration.
Meanwhile, Obaseki had earlier in the week assured the Judicial Commission of Inquiry that anyone found culpable, no matter how highly-placed, will be called to account for their action.
“We have been putting the right measures in place and if there are resources of government that need to be returned back, we will not hesitate to ask for it,” he said.
“Since I came into office, you can’t find this type of breach that you have mentioned. If people have to face prosecution, whether civil or criminal, they will have to be prosecuted”.