By NBF News

Senate has uncovered another contract scam in the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA) as it emerged at the weekend that the site of the official quarters of presiding officers of the National Assembly is non-existent.

The FCDA sought for and got approval to build new residences for the Senate president, his deputy, speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy for N3,044, 675, 974.54.

The contract was awarded on December 21, 2010 to Bussdor & Company Limited, Parsons Science Engineering Co. Ltd., Shelter Development Ltd. and Independent Service Nigeria Ltd.

The residences were expected to be built at Maitama Extension.

It also emerged that the contract for the design and construction of the official residence of the vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria originally awarded in October 2009 at N7 billion was reviewed upward to N16 billion.

This was just as the Senate was told that the over N7 billion official residence of the vice president was re-awarded with an additional N9 billion. The extra N9 billion, senators were told, would take care of the banquet hall, security quarters and furnishings. Senate also learnt that more than 50 percent of the contract sum had been paid as mobilisation fees for the designing and construction of the official residences of National Assembly presiding officers.

Only 10 percent of work was reportedly done at a site which was later discovered to be non-existent by the Senate Committee on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Senator Smart Adeyemi chairs the committee.
Senators were shocked and disappointed to discover that after wandering in the bush for more than 30 minutes, they could not locate the site for the official residences of presiding officers of the National Assembly.

Defending the inability to commence job, which he put at 10 percent completion, the Acting Director, Public Building, Mr. Ugot Uno said they were being faced with the challenge of accessibility, adding that the contractors could not get to site to work.

Exasperated senators repeatedly asked FCDA officials where the project site was.

Committee Chairman, Senator  Adeyemi, was forced to ask FCDA officials: 'Who is the contractor handling these official residences? You have appropriated money yet we cannot get to the site.' Turning to the site engineer, Adeyemi said: 'Wherever you like take us to, we are sports men, I'm a journalist and I criticise very well, so, I don't want to do anything that some people will have the opportunity to criticise me also. You work for FCDA and you are telling me you don't know how these people got here. That means you have not been here to inspect this project. We have to get there; if it entails entering the bush, we shall enter it together. Where is the foundation?

'It is unfortunate that we cannot locate the site, let alone the allocated plots. The contractors are not on site and we are here to see how far the money we have appropriated have been utilised and we are here yet we cannot trace any contractor on site, or even spot the plots for any of the buildings. 'I can now see why you did not want us to come here; you first said it will take us two hours before getting to the site, now we are here in more than 30 minutes and cannot spot either the site or the plots and you expect us to appropriate funds for this in the 2012 budget.

'It is unfortunate that the contractors are not on site and have been fully mobilised. We are ready to go to anywhere you want us to go because they are collecting Nigerians' money, they have been paid.

'I detest people keeping our money in fixed deposit and leaving the job undone. Why are they not on site? Even if they have problems initially, they could have found their way to the site because the road is opened up.'

Senator Adeyemi, thereafter, directed the acting director to go out and look for the contractors 'because it is just inexplicable that they are not on site and I don't want to believe that this place is inaccessible,' adding, 'your excuse is not tenable because if we can get here ourselves, nothing stops someone who had collected our money not to have moved to site.'

Senate also queried how the official residence of the number two citizen of the country could be awarded without conveniences and asked how it could be justified that the banquet hall, security quarters and furnishings which were not part of the initial project but a new contract, could be more expensive than the original contract itself. Requesting from the contractor and the Acting Director in charge of public building in the FCDA, who is also supervising the contract, the terms of the contract agreement and the Bill of Quantity, the Senate said the figures involved were disturbing.

On an oversight tour of the projects, the Senate committee discovered that the vice president's residence awarded in October 2009 to Julius Berger at over N7.066 billion which was said to have reached about 60 percent completion had about N2.452 billion as balance to complete the project.   'Left to us in the Senate, over N7 billion for the contract is already over-bloated and even asking for another N9 billion is very disturbing or how do you explain that you were building a vice president's residence without consideration for a banquet hall and security quarters?

'I see it more of an intentional act to enable the contractor ask for variation. If this is N7 billion project without a security concept and you are now just bringing it as additional at over N9 billion is not defendable.

'If somebody wanted to give us a proposal, it has to be within the concept of the society we live in. This additional contract sum is outrightly indefensible because ab initio, you should have an idea of the structure you want and for you to tell me that an official residence of a nation's vice president would not have a security concept and a banquet hall is totally indefensible.

'From day one, you must have the idea of the concept of what should be here because that is why we are giving it to them as professionals and for you to come and ask for additional N9 billion, it is even more than the original total sum of the initial contract.

Adeyemi, in company with his Deputy, Domingo Obende, other members of the committee, including Abatemi Usman and Emmanuel Bwacha, demanded details of the contract.