Delta State House of Assembly has began investigation into alleged fraud in the N36 million toilet project erected at the state’s College of Education, Warri, by Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).
TETFUND is a Federal Government agency charged with the responsibility for imposing, managing and disbursing the tax to public tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
BIGPEN reports that the State House of Assembly Committee on Education led by member representing Ndokwa-West, Charles Emetulu, had summoned Mary Edema, the provost of the college over the alleged fraud in the execution of the project.
It was gathered the State Assembly Committee during its Wednesday sitting also quizzed the state Commissioner for Higher Education, the institution’s governing council and few management staff of the institution.
Sources privy to the execution of the project, said that the provost was summoned to respond to allegetions that she reportedly connived with TETFUND to inflate the project sum.
It was however learnt that the investigation sitting, which lasted over an hour with few questions from the committee members, ended with pleasantries and laughter among attendees.
Fielding questions from journalists after the committee meeting, Mr. Emetulu, who was apparently protecting the provost, said she was not summoned.
He said, “We didn’t hold a meeting with the provost, we held a meeting with the governing council, the Ministry of Higher Education and the provost. That was the meeting that we held.
“The committee called for the meeting to know where the project came from and who awarded it. Nothing happened outside TETFUND concerning that project. The purpose of the meeting was to get to the bottom of the story alleging the building of two toilets with N36m by the provost and we made some findings which indicates that the story is not exactly the true position of things.
“This committee never voted any such money in this year’s budget or that of 2017 where that job was awarded. The committee is satisfied with our findings concerning the scandal. We were not investigating corruption in the school but were only concerned why is a scandal coming out from the school.”
But a senior management staff of the institution who preferred anonymity, described the committee’s investigation meeting with the provost of the college and her team as a ploy to exonerate her.
He alleged fraud in the N36m project between the provost and TETFUND and called on EFCC and ICPC to step into the matter.
“Some of us know that the corruption in NDDC and NNPC is a child’s play when compared to what is going on in TETFUND. TETFUND is corruption itself but our provost can never be exonerated in the N36m toilet scandal. Because it was a deal struck together. I repeat, let the EFCC and ICPC move into the matter and you will see what will happen. So many people will go to jail,” the staff said.
Projects cost inflation and fiscal corruption has been one major issues bedeviling TETFUND projects across higher institutions in the country.
According to a memo with number TETF/ES/COE/AL.2017/VOL.XVII, seen by BIGPEN, each of the toilet block gulped N17, 135, 871 million while N2,593,459 million went for consultancy for the project.
Two companies, Awaguma Nigeria Limited and Henag Nigeria Limited, handed the projects titled, “Construction of Modern Lavatory for Male and Female Students Block ‘A’ & ‘B’ (consisting 9 toilet units, 4 Urinals and fitted with vitrified floor tiles, wash hand basins etc.).
Findings indicated that the funds were part of the N75 million “Intervention Fund” made available by the Tertia.ry Education Trust Fund, (TETFUND), for the College.
“Overtime, there have been public outcries of underfunding for critical research in the country, in the face of which, abuse of grants such as these amid funds diversion seems prevalent”, an investigative freelance journalist, Iteveh Ekpokpobe had reported.
A quantity surveyor, Engr. Tunde Malachi, who had earlier responded to the alleged inflation of the project sum said “seven Million Naira’ could conveniently construct the projects with viable profit for the contractor”.
He said the anomaly could only be the result of a faulty and dubious procurement process.
Meanwhile, the Provost, Prof Mary Edema, earlier asserted that due process was followed in the projects’ procurement, but when asked if she would expend such amount on her private project, she said, “personal project and public projects are not the same. I cannot say when I build a personal project; it will be the same thing as this.”
According to her, “Due process was followed. It was published in a National Journal, and TETFUND official was there to witness the bidding before the award. The projects have been completed and handed over. The Commissioner for Higher Education, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare commissioned them.”