Contractors in FCT no longer collect money and flee

—Tpl. Labiyi, Director, Monitoring & Inspection

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Department of Monitoring and Inspection has over the years operated as the eyes and ears of the FCT Administration (FCTA) by ensuring that contractors not only do their jobs, but do so in line with specifications and world best practices.

Gone are the days when projects are shabbily completed or abandoned and yet contractors got paid.

The department has managed to effectively carry out its mandate with visible and positive impact on society. Abuja Digest Weekly duo of Josie Mudasiru and Bunmi Labiyi spoke with the Director, Town Planner (Tpl) Olawale Labiyi on what it means to be the ‘detective’of the Administration and the challenges that come with the role.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Monitoring and Inspection Department is basically about ensuring that government Agencies and Departments offer top notch service delivery to FCT residents. How have you fared in this task?

Labiyi: Yes, we have fared very well. The department was created in January, 2008. Between then and now, there have been lots of improvements. In the earlier years, from 2008 to 2011, we noticed that things were being done shabbily in the FCT, especially by some departments that have to do with service delivery and project implementation.

But over the last six years, between 2013 and now (2019), things have improved significantly. Contractors now know great fear due to Monitoring and Inspection Department. They know they won’t be paid unless they do a quality work. So the contractors are striving very hard to ensure they do quality work throughout the Territory.

In terms of public facilities like water, and of course the environment, there have been vast improvements. AEPB (Abuja Environmental Protection Board) is aware that contractors would not be paid except they are given certification by our Department of having being approved. The SDAs (Secretariats, Departments and Agencies) know that there’s another Department that monitors their activities and gives information to the Minister and Permanent Secretary. Therefore, they are always on their toes.

Abuja Digest Weekly: What are you doing differently to ensure that you achieve your mandate?

Labiyi: Initially our Department was just giving out reports to those SDAs. We look out for nuisances and problems and we report to them. Though in the last two years, we discovered that we have not been really following up; so we created a new division named Feedbacks and Implementation. This division is barely one year old and it ensures that feedbacks are given on actions taken on reported problems. In other words, we are not just leaving them on their own, we follow up. We ask the division to give us report on actions that have been taken on problems that were initially reported to them.

We have also been using liaison officers. Each SDA has a liaison officer and we’ve held meetings with them in the last seven years. Later on, we discovered that the liaison officers were not really meeting up to date, so we now created a WhatsApp online platform, and we included all liaison officers on the platform. Pictures are being captured and shared on the platform and since then, they’ve been happy with the idea, especially AEPB and Water Board. You’ll see that within the next 24 hours, the relevant liaison officers also report back with pictures to prove that action has been taken, which includes ‘before action taken’ and ‘after action taken’ pictures.

     Another thing we do now pertains to some nasty cases that have been defying solution. Instead of writing reports, I write direct letters to the Directors to see swift actions on problems and I also copy the Minister and the Permanent Secretary so that they both know the Director of each agency is aware. The direct letter to the Director is meant to ginger up such Director to take swift action on the problems. So, we have started writing direct letters on these problems that are repeating themselves overtime as nobody wants to take any action. So we write direct letters and also inform the Minister on them.

     These are basically the things we’ve been doing differently in the last one year.

Abuja Digest Weekly: What is the relationship between your Department and others? Are they antagonistic or willing to cooperate with you?

Labiyi: The relationship is cordial. They give us feedback and are relating well with the newly created division (Feedbacks and Implementation). The division is on their necks and so far the reports reaching me are that those Departments we normally had challenges with in the past, are cooperating well now. So the relationship is very cordial because they also know we are helping them do their work better.

Abuja Digest Weekly: What do you intend to achieve this year? What should residents expect from your Department?

Labiyi: This year, Abuja residents should expect better delivery on the part of agencies and response time to complaints will be better in addressing issues, problems and nuisances that have to do with public utilities and the environment. We are also collaborating with this platform called Call Center in the Minister’s Office as they have an online platform and I’m personally on the platform. Therefore, we all work together for the same goal. We make sure there’s a cleaner environment and that public facilities such as schools and hospitals are in good condition for the use of residents in Abuja.

      We also want to strengthen our working relationship with all the SDAs the more. Basically, these are the things we want to do differently this year.

Abuja Digest Weekly: You monitor projects. How will you assess the performance of this Administration in terms of initiating and completing new projects?

Labiyi: Thank you very much. The Honourable Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, when he came on board, insisted he doesn’t want any abandoned projects. He has done very well by completing 90% of ongoing projects and has completed all the projects initiated by his Administration, and premium is being paid to quality service delivery. The Minister has done very well. 

Abuja Digest Weekly: What percentage will you give, in your assessment of the performance of the Administration?

Labiyi: I am not in a position to assess the performance of the Administration. All I know is that the Minister has done well. He wants us to always emphasize that the contractor has done a quality job and that things are been done to specification.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Your Department is key to the success of FCTA. What are you doing to ensure the staff members realizes this, and that they are doing the job without fear?

Labiyi: The motto of our Department is ‘Integrity’. We always emphasize it anywhere we find ourselves. I always tell my staff that our integrity is non-negotiable. When you go out and you see something that is red, you call it red. In other words, as you see it, just say it as it is. When everybody knows that you cannot change your report to suit anybody, everyone will sit up. So far so good, I have not received any complaints from any member of the public or the Minister and Permanent Secretary that any of our staff has been reported. We are different and every staff is reminded constantly of the need to imbibe our working culture. We have to be straight forward and not bend our reports to suit anybody.

     I personally don’t entertain any contractor in my office and my staff members are aware of that. Their files come here and no contractor enters my office to see me. I always tell the divisional heads to follow suit. So I think we are on track so far.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Do you have any challenges, or foresee the challenges that could mar your operations?

Labiyi: Yes, we have some challenges, but, I want to thank the Honourable Minister who gave us the leisure of having more utility vehicles because our mandate has been expanding over the years.

        The main challenge is that we need more drivers, as our mandate is continuously expanding. Not only drivers, we need more permanent staff. We have been making use of a lot of Youth Corps members and you know they leave with too much information about the department, which leads to another foreseeable challenge of office space for extra permanent staff that will be required.

 Another challenge that surfaced has to do with security on the field. For instance, one of our teams consisting of women, went to an area in Rubochi and met some people who challenged them. They came back, saying, if not for the grace of God, some evil could have happened to them.

  Well, so far, we’ve been given approval for Civil Defence officers who will escort our team when they go for their operations. But we still need armed policemen for extra protection because we have heard on cases of kidnapping and we want to avoid such in the future.

  I think that is the latest challenge that is just coming up now.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Your last word for the good people of Abuja?

Labiyi: Abuja people should expect better service delivery this year. I want to assure them that public facilities will work better; I’m talking of schools and hospitals. They should expect a cleaner environment this year and better attention will be given to Area Councils.

  Lastly, I think this year will be better than last year.