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Okonjo-Iweala honours Reps’ summon

Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday made a 10-minute appearance at the public hearing of the House of Representatives on the illegal concession agreement between her ministry and Single Window Systems and Technology Limited (SWST).

The minister was on Monday threatened with an arrest if she failed to appear before the ad-hoc committee by noon yesterday.
In her brief appearance, Okonjo-Iweala told the committee chaired by Deputy House Leader, Leo Ogor, that she had no information for the committee since she was not in office when the contract was conceived and signed.

However, she restated her commitment to getting the circumstances surrounding the contract properly investigated by the ministry.
“I am still trying to inform myself on the processes and procedures that went into signing the contract. It was signed before my time. But because government is continuous, I have brought a team from the Ministry of Finance to address all the issues the committee may require.

“With the leave of Mr. President, I am also trying to inquire into the procedures and processes of the contract.”
She was allowed to take her leave and the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Danladi Kifasi, took over the podium to explain the process leading to the signing of the agreement.

Kifasi defended every step taken by government in the award of the contract, concluding that it was done in the national Interest, although the committee spotted several irregularities in the Single Window contract.
At a point, Ogor and other members of the committee were practically at war with Kifasi, as he was accused of attempts to deviate from the issue at stake in his response to questions.

“Why are you beating round the bush? When we make a mistake, we should accept it. Don’t try to cover up here because any attempt to cover for one mistake will lead to further mistakes,” Ogor fumed.
Kifasi was confronted with the allegation that the ministry lacked legal power to award such contract without due regard to the Procurement Act, but he insisted that the Act mentioned does not apply to contracts that have security implication.

“Given that the Single Window involves issues of National Security and by virtue of the combined effect of the provisions of Sections 1(1) (2) and 12 of the Pre-shipment Inspection of Exports and Imports Act, 1996, both the Presidency, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Reconstituted Presidential Task Force on the Reform of the Nigeria Customs Service invited various vendors who made presentations on the concept with a view to selecting one.”

On allegation that the Single Window System and Technology Limited which won the contract was not registered at the time the contract was processed, Kifasi said as far as the ministry was concerned, the company was registered when the agreement was signed.

“It is left for the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to ensure that any company doing business in Nigeria is properly registered. I have no reason to doubt SWST at all.”
The permanent secretary harped more on the gains of the Single Window System.

-Sun

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Posted by on Sep 13 2011. Filed under House, Latest Politics, Legislature, Ministries. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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