Re: Sobi FM’s investigation on Kwara school renovations
The Kwara State Government has taken time to dissect a report by one Dare Akogun of Sobi FM on the ongoing school rehabilitation projects across the state, and wishes to make the following observations:
· The school renovation works are still ongoing. None of the schools mentioned in the said report has been completed. It is therefore hasty for anyone to reach any conclusion on them. The delay in the completion has been due to deliberate withhold of funds until the government is satisfied that jobs done at the sites are commensurate with public funds already sunk into them. This is the irreducible demands of the Governor.
· The government is not unaware of possible gaps in the works by some of the contractors. It was for this reason the government commissioned a social audit process which involved giving out relevant details for independent critique of the works so far done by the contractors. This is transparency and accountability, the kind of which is not found anywhere else in this country. Some of the lapses observed from the audits are already being corrected.
Even so, some observations in social audit reports need to be re-examined. For example, the use of PVC instead of asbestos for classrooms is a decision made on public health grounds. Asbestos are injurious to public health, so contractors got approval to use PVC instead. There was also a change from glass louvres (windows) in the BOQ to steel windows, which are quite much more expensive. This, again, was done for safety reasons as glass louvres are prone to easy breakage, potentially injuring pupils or students. There are other such reviews of contents of BOQ.
· The so-called investigative report falls short of basic ethics of journalism which are facts and truth. There are outright falsehoods and deliberate suppression of facts in the report. While the political agenda of SOBI FM is glaring even to the blind, we find it worrying that a platform like ICIR lent itself to such unprofessional conducts. For instance, the reporter claimed that the fence of one of the schools collapsed as a result of rainfall when it was public knowledge that the said section of the wall collapsed when a drunk driver rammed into it. This issue was reported at Adewole Police State in Ilorin on September 2, 2020. A video footage of the driver pleading for leniency also circulated widely on the social media at the time. That a reporter chose to ignore verifiable facts for fiction tells it all.
· The report also imputed that funds meant for the comprehensive renovation of Offa Grammar School were diverted. This fatally strikes at the heart of the so-called investigative report. While the government indeed originally set out to do comprehensive renovation at the iconic school, various stakeholders in Offa (including their representatives in the government) suggested that the funds be spent instead on other schools in the town that are in need of urgent renovation works. This was duly approved with necessary paper works. This is why there are ongoing varying renovation works at the following eight schools in Offa: Iyeru Grammar School; CSS, Offa; GDSS, Offa; GSS Offa; Nawairudeen Grammar School, Offa; Offa ACC, Offa; Moremi High School, Offa; and Okin High School, Offa. A reporter undertaking an investigative work ought to ask necessity questions and conduct due diligence to be sure their report is factual and can pass the test of fairness.
· The report claimed that the government failed to do comprehensive renovation in Omu-Aran Secondary School, contrary to what was advertised. This is false. At no time did the government advertise comprehensive renovation of Omu-Aran Secondary School. The job done is what is in the BOQ for the school renovation work.
· The reporter also contradicted himself when he claimed on the one hand that details of the contracts were not in the public and he then again found himself quoting figures of contract of schools he visited. This is inconsistency.
· Finally, a valid judgment on the cost of a contract can only be made by certified experts after proper assessment of the scope and size of the job, not by any Tom, Dick and Harry. The reporter’s conclusion that the schools contracts were inflated is incompetent, unprofessional, ill-motivated, and stands rejected. We urge him and his medium to be professional and ethical, and to leave politics for politicians. We urge members of the public to ignore the jaundiced report.
Hon. Commissioner for Communications
December 10, 2020