Procurement: Lagos govt enhances SMEs opportunities for contracts bidding

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The Lagos State on Wednesday said it had given Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) opportunities to bid for of contracts.

Mr Fatai Onafowote, the Director-General, Lagos State Public Procurement Agency disclosed this at the 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM)/Stakeholders’ Forum in Ikeja.

The theme of the forum is: ”Promoting Seamless Procurement: The e-Procurement Edge”.

Onafowote said that the state government had relaxed some of the requirements for registration by the SMEs, so that they could also bid and compete for the award of contracts.

He said that it was in demonstration of the commitment of the government to give everybody a sense of belonging and make the SMEs benefit from business opportunities available in the state.

According to him, the agency has started migrating from manual to public procurement process and has organised training on e-procurement for some categories of stakeholders.

He said that it was to enable them to benefit from the new system.

”Also, to further enhance the ease of doing business the state government, the agency entered into collaboration with some MDAs and some private sectors.

“The collaboration is to facilitate the ease of payment of taxes and levies due to the government by contractors, suppliers and service providers.

”With the collaboration, it is now possible for contractors, suppliers and service providers to make necessary payments to the coffers of government using online payment platforms without having to go to the bank.

”This has made payment to government free of stress, thereby, encouraging people to make their payments promptly.

”We are also not unaware of the fact that sometimes when contractors are awarded contracts, they may not have the money with which to pay for the statutory deductions associated with the contracts.

”Hence, they will begin to run helter-skelter to raise funds for the statutory payments such as withholding taxes, VAT, development levy and so on, thereby delaying the execution of the jobs.

”To help mitigate this challenge, the agency in collaboration with the State Treasury Office and the Central Internal Audit Office has devised a strategy which allows the contractor to authorise the deduction of such statutory payments from source when payment for the job is to be made to the contractor by the State Government,” he said.

Onafowote said that the strategy helped to avoid delays and speed up the pace of execution.

Dr Rabiu Olowo, the Chairman, Governing Board of the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency, said the decision to organise the AGM was for accountability in the implementation of Public Procurement Law of the state.

Olowo, who is also the for Finance, said that the AGM/stakeholders’ forum was to assess the performance of the agency and chart a new course of action that would enhance its performance.

He said that the forum would ensure the reduction or elimination of areas of challenge that might be present in the public procurement process in the state.

According to him, the administration of Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu is committed to ensuring ease of doing business in the state and the agency is expected to play a leading role in this regard.

”That is the reason why the agency has embarked on massive deployment of technology and automation of its procurement processes.

“Today, it takes the agency under 48 hours to get a contractor registered on its contractor database.

”Lagos State, as we are all aware, is the hub of commerce and enterprise not only in Nigeria, but in the entire West African-sub region.

”This places a huge burden and a serious challenge on the state.

“There is need to continue to innovate and develop creative strategies that will continuously enhance the ease of doing business and make the state the choice destination of investors globally,” he said.

The Head of Service, Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola, said that the agency had brought drastic changes to procurement in the public sector of the state.

Muri-Okunola said that such changes had greatly assisted in ensuring cost effectiveness, increased transparency and accountability in government.

”Government at all levels are passing through a most challenging phase, considering the myraid of public expectations and social service needs to be met, in the face of limited resources.

”It, therefore, becomes imperative to work together as citizens to evolve creative strategies that will put government in good stead to provide adequate public goods and services efficiently and in sustainable manner,” he said.