Corruption, greed hindering nations's development, laments Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan has identified greed, desperation to inflate contracts by government officials as some of the greatest factors hindering the development of Nigeria.
Speaking on Monday in Abuja, at the presidential retreat on the first four years implementation plan of the Vision 20:2020 and public-private partnership framework for infrastructure development in Nigeria, he said greed was responsible for the inflation of contracts in the country.
According to him, “greed, of which corruption is a part, is the main stumbling block that stems our growth. If people are greedy, they tend to inflate contracts. If people are greedy, they intend to inflate the price; all these retard our development.”
Illustrating his claim, President Jonathan said “for example, somebody in the private sector, who is a contractor to the government and is to provide services or execute a contract, what is supposed to cost government N10,000 you will collaborate with the government functionaries to increase it to N30,000 and if you are cautioned, you will say you are a businessman, you are not corrupt.
“But to me, if procurement will cost three times what it is supposed to cost, then, by implication, any amount of money we spend from our capital budget, you are retarding us by a number of years.
“What we are supposed to do in one year we are doing in three years, what infrastructure that might produce 30 kilometres of road might not even be up to 10 kilometres. What we are supposed to be in three years' time, you have, by your action, taken us back two years and yet you say you are not corrupt.
“That is why I'll prefer to use the word 'greed' because it is one of the stumbling blocks to the growth of our nation,” he said.
President Jonathan further reiterated the determination of the administration to overhaul the procurement process of government, so as to ensure that projects were implemented at appropriate costs.
According to him, “that is one of the reasons why in the last Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, we set up a committee to look into our procurement, because if we do not review our procurement, money that will give us three times the price of something ends up giving us only one.”
The president said contractors who were found to perpetually inflate contracts would not be prosecuted, but would, however, be blacklisted.
“Administratively, contractors that are not good enough or perpetually inflate contracts should not be retained. We are not going to take any contractor to court, but if we note a particular contractor to be inflating contracts, we should be able to tell him it is not business as usual, otherwise you can forget doing business in Nigeria. That was why we set up that committee,” he said.
President Jonathan further said apart from awarding contracts, ministers must monitor implementation of projects to ensure that they produced value for money.
“Even when you are given quotations for certain contracts and you are told as an engineer you will need 30,000 cubic metres whereas what you need is 10,000 cubic meters, you must be able to verify that what was quoted is what you need,” he said.
He added that “we must ensure that people, whether civil servants or contractors, who are chronic collaborators to exploit us as a nation no longer have a field day.”
President Jonathan regretted the rate of students' failure and fraudulent practices in school certificate examinations, saying that “if somebody from day one is fraudulent, even in terms of getting simple certificate, then if that person becomes a minister, permanent secretary, governor, a president, you can only imagine how that person will lead.”
Also speaking, former head of Interim National Government (ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan, said one of the paradoxes of the country was that it remained in abject poverty in spite of “indisputable and widely-acknowledged potential for strong and sustained growth capacity of our economy.”
According to him, “there is clear evidence that two related factors have contributed significantly to this unhappy situation. One is the almost total abandonment of systematic and consistent planning in the management of our economy.
“The second contributory factor, which is, indeed, the consequence of the first, is the haphazard way and manner in which we continue to attempt to provide the basic economic and social infrastructure that is so vital for the creation of public goods and services that are essential for sustained improvement in the quality of life of our people.”