Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund) has dismissed allegations of contract and procurement fraud levelled at its Executive Secretary, Arc Sonny Echono which was published on an online media platform.
TETFund said the allegations are baseless and a ploy to distract the Executive Secretary from implementing some reforms at the Fund which is geared towards repositioning it.
A rejoinder titled ‘Disquiet In Nigerian Education Agency, TETFund over contracts fraud, procurement is corruption fights back as Echono implements sweeping reforms’ by the Acting Director, Public Affairs Tetfund, Abdulmumin Oniyangi said the allegations which are far from the truth show that the reformation at the fund is stepping on long toes.
“The attention of the Management of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) has been drawn to a publication by the Sahara Reporters dated 20th July 2022 titled “Disquiet in Nigeria Education Agency, TETFund over Contracts Fraud, Procurement Racketing, Others under New Head, Sonny Echono.
“In the said report, it was alleged that the Executive Secretary of TETFund had turned the Fund into a fiefdom where contract splitting and padding was the order of the day,” the rejoinder said.
Oniyangi further said that Echono had frozen, cancelled or suspended programmes and consultancies adjudged wasteful or economically disadvantageous to the Fund.
He said some of those affected are licking their wounds while a few who initially threatened legal actions have settled for renegotiation after realizing their weak positions.
“The unwieldy 99-man Technical Advisory Group (TAG) has been put on notice to right-size for prudence and greater operational efficiency. The Executive Secretary is indeed stepping on some long toes and the expected response is to question his qualification for the job which none of his five (5) predecessors (3 academics and 2 technocrats) was better prepared for.
“Perhaps more problematic are the Procurement and Project Management reforms introduced to eliminate corruption, reduce delivery time of projects, prevent cost escalation and improve general efficiency in the discharge of the Fund’s mandate. Under the new dispensation, all projects to be executed by the Fund are to be planned, packaged and selected by the beneficiary institutions for review and concurrence of the Fund. No more TETFund or vendor-promoted projects, as the needs of the institutions shall prevail,” he stated.
He explained that the annual disbursement allocations were made directly to the beneficiary institutions at a public ceremony held at the National Universities Commission (NUC) on 9th May 2022. The Vice-Chancellors, Provosts and Rectors were directed to advertise and procure their projects through open, competitive bidding to achieve value for money.
This was widely reported in the media and commended by the Procurement Professionals Association of Nigeria along with the threat to punish erring contractors who delay project execution or deliver poor quality jobs. Hardly the stuff of a wheeler and dealer.
Oniyangi noted that it is therefore laughable that these measures are being described by some aggrieved vested interests as “unwholesome practices”. Equally instructive is the fact that TETFund is not a contract awarding agency on behalf of beneficiary institutions so the reference to contract splitting and padding are totally baseless and incomprehensible. The design and costing of projects are done by the respective institutions. So also is the supervision and management. TETFund only monitors milestones attainments ahead of releases in tranches.
Furthermore, he stated that to allege that someone who publicly distributed allocation letters “is in the habit of asking for advance payment in dollars before grants are given” is standing truth on its head. It is on record that since the resumption of duty, Arc Echono has not personally issued any grant or letter to any beneficiary institution but rather through technical departments responsible for each intervention area.