Former Principal Secretary to former Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and member representing Ideato North and South Federal Constituency, Dr. Paschal Obi, has told the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Contracts awarded between 2011 -2019 that a contractor for a project designated ‘Sundry Capital Project’ at Area K World Bank, Owerri absconded without executing the $110 million (N39.6 billion) project.
At a resumed sitting of the Judicial Commission at the weekend, Dr. Obi who also signed the contract award letter without the contractor signing the contract agreement, disclosed that the contractor bolted with the funds given to him for the project without executing the contract.
He also disclosed women of Owerri community stopped the project from take off, adding the contractor had since taken the state government to court over the project.
The panelists discovered that most of the major contracts awarded under the Okorocha administration did not have contract agreements executed by the government and the contractors while contract sums were fully paid for.
The commission also realised that some of the contracts did not have case files despite their values being in billions while others were fully paid for without executing the contracts.
But, answering questions from a witness box, Obi, who personally signed the contracts as the chairman of the Government House Task Force Projects Committee, expressed surprise that the contractors did not sign contract agreements and still received payments from his office.
He disclosed that the Task Force committee headed by him replaced the State Tenders Board.
According to him, as the man in charge of the award of contracts, he signed his column of the contact agreements and sent same to the office of the Secretary of the Task Force to ensure every contractor signed their own before they were paid mobilisation fees.
Responding to a question on why the sum of N650 million was paid each for construction of the new ministries of transport and lands offices without the contract being awarded while the building could not be found anywhere in the state, the witness said he was not in a position to know the projects executed because he was not in charge of project inspection.
He disclosed that Okorocha was in charge of projects inspection and should be held responsible for any substandard projects or ones paid for but not executed.
On why some of the contracts, like the internal roads in Ihitte Uboma local government area and a project designated as Sunrise Park were not listed in any files as contracts awarded despite billions of naira paid for them, Obi also expressed surprise, saying he did not know the locations.
The commission also discovered that in January 2013, a contract was awarded for the construction of Egbeada-Afor Umuaka Road at the cost of N2.4 billion at the recommendation of the committee led by the then Secretary to the Government of Imo State but was curiously cancelled and re-awarded to another contractor at the cost of N3.6 billion two weeks later by Obi.
But Obi’s response to that was that he was only a civil servant and was bound to carry out instructions given him by the Governor.
He however stated that there were new bill of quantity from another contractor that jerked up the price.
It was equally discovered that the contract for the new state High Court Complex was awarded in three different titles — Justice Oputa High Court Complex; Imo State Judiciary Headquarters and Imo State Judiciary Complex– with monies paid for each of them in billions.
Obi insisted that the projects were in existence and that the contracts were given to three different contractors who he said delivered.
He added that there was need to get the architectural designs from the Ministry of Works to confirm their existence.
Also, the commission discovered that the principal secretary received several billions of naira from the office of the Accountant General of the state without being tied to any project.
For instance, the commission discovered from the records that on May 21, 2014, the principal secretary received N5 billion, N2 billion, N1 billion, N800 million and several others same day without tying them to projects.
Obi insisted majority of the payments made from his office were tied to contracts, disclosing that any money given to his office had 100 percent approval from the Governor. (The Nation)