Banquet Hall: Kwara Govt refutes contract inflation claims, demands apology from INSIDER NG

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• Online medium failed to seek govt’s side of the story

The Kwara State Government has refuted claims that it inflated the contract for the renovation of Banquet Hall as alleged by the INSIDER NG in an exclusive report released a forthnight ago, branding it “misleading, misguided, and in bad faith.”

The INSIDER NG had earlier reported that payment for the renovation of the hall was made into the account of the Permanent Secretary, Government House, instead of direct payment into the account of the contractor.

In its exclusive report, INSIDER NG claimed that jobs were done contrary to the contract award letters, while also declaring that money was paid for undisclosed additional works.

However, according to a letter signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof Mamman Jubril on Tuesday, obtained by The Ravens NG, these were baseless allegations for which the administration demanded apology from the medium published in a local and national media within seven days.

“We submit that the entire report is a product of mischief and lack of diligence on the part of the reporter and the editors. It is also noted that the reporter, as can be seen in the report, did not make any effort to contact relevant government officials to make any clarifications, as is required by standard journalistic practice.

“For the purpose of setting the record straight, the allegations of contract inflation, contract splitting, lack of major works commensurate with money paid, among others, are totally unfounded,” Prof Jubril remarked.

“The contract, which was strictly related to the renovation of the Hall as an entity, was awarded to Avalon Design Konsult Ltd at the cost of N80,275,085.70 after the firm was rated first in the bidding process conducted by the Ministerial Tender Board (MTB) that took place in October 2019. The other two firms that bidded were Ibyets International Ltd. And Rastoy Nig. Ltd.

“The contract sums and jobs done were as contained in the Bill of Quantities. The repair works in the BOQ included repair of roof covering; reconstruction of PoP in the main hall and repair of other areas; laying of new water proof membrane (felt) on the roof slab; replacement/refurbishment of defective doors; repair of faulty windows; electrical cables and fittings; replacement of damaged plumbing pipes and fittings; reconstruction of kitchen cabinets; floor and wall tiling; plywood cladding; and painting (internal and external).”

He also explained that the contract was reviewed to accommodate emerging factors in the job and the modification was vetted and approved, noting that contract splitting didn’t arise.

“However, as is usual with renovation projects, a few things were deemed necessary as the works commenced. This led to a review of the contract which was duly vetted and approved.The reviews (additional works) included new roof covering for the barrel roof and water collectors (concrete spouts); additional doors;  fire alarm system and fire extinguishers; maintenance of existing Acs and provision of new ones; granite tiles in kitchen; and installation of CCTV. The additional works were valued at N60,224,080.00. This brings the total contract sums to N140,499,165.70 only. This (list of additional works) is contrary to your claim that a review was done without any clear job specifications to warrant same.

“These additional jobs were fully done by the same contractor, Avalon Design Konsult, as contained in the contract agreement. Job reviews (not a new contract) are allowed under the state procurement law without a new bidding process.

“Similarly, your claim about contract splitting is misguided. Contract splitting occurs where there is an attempt to circumvent cabinet approvals for contracts that exceed the approval limits of the Governor (N250m). The entire contract sum N140,499,165.70 (as contained in the BOQ for the first job and the additional works) is not up to N200m. So, what could have warranted any contract splitting as alleged by your publication?,” he queried.

“We state that the renovation works, as covered in the contract agreement to Avalon Design Konsult, were properly done. The facility was handed over in October 2020. However, in a brief to His Excellency dated September 28, 2020, the Office of the SSG recommended that the following be provided in and around the hall for maximum comfort:

*state of the art public address system
*new banquet chairs to complement the existing ones
*Provision/repair of solar street garden light
*Provision of back up 250/300 KVA generating set and
*Provision of new sound proof curtain

“Upon assessment of these new requests, it was agreed that various units of Government House can handle the works. Backed with the requisite legal instruments, the Office of the Permanent Secretary Government sought appropriate approvals and got same to get these basics. Money for this job was accordingly paid into the official Government House (Permanent Secretary) account to execute same. Contrary to the insinuation in your report, the contractor at this time had handed over the Banquet Hall and it had nothing to do with the new provisions. The money to get these new fittings could therefore not have gone into the accounts of the contractor, Avalon Design Konsult.”

Prof Jubril called on the INSIDER NG to apologise for authoring fake and misleading news within seven days.

He said while the Kwara State Government is committed to protecting the freedom of press, the media should be responsible in their reportage especially as dictated by media ethics.

“Flowing from the above, we assert that your report was misleading, misguided, and in bad faith, as it is capable of inciting the public against the administration. We therefore demand that you officially apologise to the government over the story, publish same (apology) in a national newspaper and the Herald newspaper, and bring down the copy within the next seven days as a show of good faith. The government will have the option of seeking legal redress if you do not meet these reasonable demands within the next seven days from today.

“Our administration restates its commitment to protect the freedom of the press in Kwara State. However, we are convinced that the media also have the twin responsibility of informing the public as well as adhering to the principle of fairness and staying within ethical limits.”

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