By ABDUL TASHIU
Residents of Kenyi, a fast-growing community in Kagarko Local Government Council of Kaduna State, have for the past three years been unable to track a contractor who was awarded the contract to renovate two blocks of classrooms in the community’s Government Junior Secondary School due to lack of contact information from the relevant procurement entity.
According to these locals, the contractor was last seen on-site three years ago resulting into the community not able to get feedback on the implementation status of the project awarded for the provision of classrooms in the GJSS Kenyi, a development which has put the sleepy community in the state of confusion.
They decried that, the contractor was last seen on site when he came to strip off the existing roofing sheets, windows and doors of the classrooms, creating the impression that he would replace them immediately. Surprisingly, two weeks later, work stopped and up till now, the facility has been left to deteriorates than it was before.
In an interview, the Chairman, Kenyi People Progressive Union, Mr Joshua Musa revealed that “the contractor reported to the site on February 10, 2018, and after stripping bare the blocks of classrooms meant for renovation, left the site on March 9, 2018. Since then all efforts to get the contractor to the site have remained futile.
“We wrote letters to the Chairman, Kagarko Local Government Council, the State Emergency Management Agency, Ministry of Education and had meetings with notable officials, to the point that a team came to the community and took estimates. We inherited the problem as a Union and since then, we have been going back and forth. Meeting and commitments are all we have been getting even as at our recent engagements from 2019 till date.”
According to Musa, “the letter in question written and signed by the chairman and secretary of our union, sought the assistance of the council for completion of the project or that the contractor is prevailed upon to return to the site. To aggravate matters, there was no signpost concerning the project, the name of the implementation agency is unknown, no knowledge of the name of the contractor nor the contract sum. Our team has been tracking the project without the relevant information to refer to in our correspondences with the council and other government agencies” he said.
A source within the school who craved for anonymity said, “the school community had no prior knowledge of the project specifications or supporting contract details. Their correspondences have always been to the zonal director for education overseeing the area.
“We are sometimes worried that perhaps the person who came to the school to undertake the job is an impostor but for the principal’s resolve to lock in safe custody the materials from the classrooms. The contractor went on a weekend and never returned to the site again.
“Our school has no classrooms and we have to beg to create a makeshift with the existing facilities at the senior secondary school in the community. This too has not solved the problem as JSS 2A and 2B; JSS 3A and 3B are both using one classroom and the JSS 1 classes have no classrooms each time the students wrote their certificate exams, as what they use for a classroom is the school’s examination hall.”
The source added: “Enrollment has dropped from over 500 students to about 350 from 2018 to date. Currently the school can enrol not more than 130 students over these years due to lack of infrastructure and facilities”.
According to our investigations, forced by this constraint, the schools on many occasions turn down requests from parents and guardians seeking to enrol their wards to the junior secondary school. Other communities affected by this development include Fai, Kotoho, Kurmin Bauna, Kurmin Jatau, Sawano, Sabon Gari Kenyi, Tacha 1, Tacha 2 and Ungwan Madaki.
Also affected are six other primary schools inside Kenyi which are all within the catchment area for enrollment into Government Junior Secondary School. At the moment, the only functional facility available in the school is the staff room, which we learnt, was graciously donated by the Parents-Teachers Association.
A youth leader in the Kenyi community, Emmanuel Ahmadu, further revealed that a community donated a laboratory and a block of two classrooms to the junior secondary school. “We are pained that last year the laboratory collapsed during the 2019 rainy season and the only project that ought to have lasted the test of time is in a state of disrepair. This situation is not encouraging, thereby adversely affecting the community’s commitment to actualizing education development in the state.
“Our morale has dropped with other emerging challenges faced by the school. The school is already suffering from poor hygiene due to lack of water and adequate toilets. After building the existing blocks through community efforts we are now worried over the fate of community self-help initiative which have yielded little results in advancing the fortunes of the over three-decade-old secondary school.”
Ahmadu regretted that presently there is no learning environment in the school, “it is in doubt if the free education policy of the government of the state will make any difference to the people of Kenyi for generations to come,” he said.
Although open contracting is helping procurement monitors to put the searchlights on projects in communities, the inadequacy of such information and how little people are aware of the role they can play leaves much to be desired as service not delivered could be paid for in the process.
These revelations have come about as a result of the monitoring activities of Education monitor, procurement monitors based in Kaduna who have identified the project for monitoring. According to a member of the team, monitoring this particular procurement, request for additional information concerning the procurement from Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board – which according to data sourced from government’s open contracting data sources – was awarded in 2017.
Although the data now being requested is among the 24 items the Kaduna State Government has committed to making full disclosure in the Open Government Partnership, the state has signed into, monitors still have to write to procurement entities to source information.
The lack of prompt feedback from procurement entities and delayed access to this information is no doubt frustrating the effort of monitors in helping citizens and government track adherence to public procurement laws and regulations in the state.
Abdul Tashiu one of the monitors believes that if the state government demonstrates the political will to make operational the Kaduna State Open Contracting Portal, all the challenges being faced by communities and civil society in tracking service delivery would be solved. For two years, the state government has been working on a portal to provide timely access to contract information in the state without tangible results.
Kaduna state is one of the few states in Nigeria that has been practising the Open Government Partnership for about two years now. Governor Nasir el-Rufai had highlighted in his inaugural speech in 2015 that he will improve the procurement process in the state to be at the most cost-effective level and encourages personal responsibility by instilling a culture of probity that insists on value for money. After the overhaul of the process in the state, access to contact information is still difficult even for trained monitors.