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Nigeria's Obasanjo Reforms Government Contract System Before Exit

Nigeria's outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo has won praise for reforming the system of the procurement of government contracts. As Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA, the administration has taken it a step further by approving legislation demanding more transparency in business contracts between the government and the public sector.

For many years, Nigerian government officials used inflated business contracts to generate kickbacks for themselves and contractors. Billions of dollars of public funds were lost in the process, and Nigeria gained the reputation as one of the most corrupt countries in the world to do business.

As part of its economic reforms, the outgoing administration streamlined the rules of public procurement by introducing legislation that enhances transparency and accountability in awarding government contracts.

In addition, Mr. Obasanjo created the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit to ensure all contracts are under compliance with the guidelines and procedures.

Professor Kunle Wahab, who heads the agency, says their efforts have saved Nigeria nearly $2 billion in the past six years.

He says all contracts are subject to strict guidelines.

"Nobody under the federal service has any right to award contract unless it goes through the due process. And due process requires advertisement when you have appropriation for the project," he said. "The days when contracts were awarded anyhow, is gone for good. Those who really infringe these law, the law provides for prosecution and punishment to be meted accordingly."

Despite the government's efforts to end corruption in government contracts, the violence and irregularities in recent elections were a reminder of the country's struggle with poor governance, corruption, and weak accountability of the political elite.