From Fred Itua, Abuja
The National Assembly sacked two Information and Communication Technology (ICT) firms due to breach of trust, Sunday Sun has learned.
The firms were engaged in 2018 to carry out an Internet Bandwidth Connectivity Upgrade Project within the National Assembly, according to an audit report sighted by our reporter in Abuja.
This is coming even as an NGO accused the indicted and sacked firms of orchestrating a campaign of calumny against the Clerk to the National Assembly, Arc Ojo Olatunde Amos.
A group under the auspices of Equity and Transparency Development Initiative had accused the CNA of “aiding espionage” and influencing the award of ICT contract to a company in which he alleged had vested interest.
In a petition, the body urged the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate its allegations against the CNA.
The petition follows the formal disengagement of the indicted consultancy firms by the National Assembly.
The report disclosed that of the three ICT firms engaged by the National Assembly to upgrade its internet bandwidth, only one was found to have fulfilled his contractual obligations.
It lamented that the other two firms, now disengaged due to their alleged failure to live up to the terms of the award of the contract following a comprehensive audit of their services, were found to have shortchanged the National Assembly by delivering far less internet bandwidth than what was paid for by the National Assembly.
According to the report, it was required of the three vendors to supply internet services directly to the National Assembly Data Centre from a Tier-1 Service Provider in accordance with their service provisioning engagement terms.
However, the findings indicated that two of the vendors sourced their services from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) licensed Tier-1 Service Providers, while internet services from the third firm were not sourced from a Tier-1 Service Provider.
The report further noted that while an Autonomous System Number (ASN) registration was primarily to ensure that the National Assembly network is autonomous from service provider control as a unique identification number, the following anomalies were discovered:
‘The supposedly Autonomous System Number assigned to National Assembly (a government entity) was actually registered to a private company by one of the vendors.
‘The IP (Internet Protocol) Prefixes of …supposedly bought for the National Assembly with 1,024 public IP Addresses was divided into four prefixes, out of which only 256 IP Addresses were assigned to the National Assembly and the remaining 786 IP Addresses were assigned to (one of the firms), thereby using NASS network infrastructure and resources for their private enterprise,’ it noted.
The report also indicated that the Managing Director of one of the sacked firms is also the official administrator of the ASN and a major stakeholder in another firm that is the registered owner of the ASN purportedly arranged on behalf of the National Assembly.
‘The implication is that the management of the ASN is solely in the hands of (the two private firms). This act is a major exposure to NASS, and at will, they can manipulate the NASS network for personal gain and hold it to ransom,’ the report surmised.
In its recommendations, the report noted that the management of the National Assembly’s core ICT infrastructure should be the “prioritised responsibilities” of its ICT department as the ‘sensitive task of Autonomous System (AS) registration and network management shouldn’t have been outsourced to any consultant without departmental involvement for checks and balance purposes.’
‘However, ICT infrastructure installations, configurations and maintenance could be contracted out with departmental supervision to prevent any breaches,’ it added.
‘National Assembly Autonomous System registration that was wrongly registered with (a private firm) as the owner should be reverted immediately to the National Assembly that paid legally for the said registration or ICT department should do a new ASN registration specifically for (the) National Assembly.
‘As it was reported in the findings (one of the vendors) failed the entire network integrity test carried out and considering the firms’ Managing Director’s questionable role in the NASS ASN registration saga, hence the vendor should be disengaged.’
Meanwhile, an NGO – the Nigeria Good Governance Research Centre (NIGOGOREC) – in a statement in Abuja by its Executive Director, Comrade Igbotako Nowinta, in Abuja described the allegations against the CNA as ‘frivolous, baseless and unfounded’.
Nowinta accused the four indicted ICT firms that were sacked following the recommendations in the report, of masterminding the said petition to the ICPC as a revenge against the management of the National Assembly, especially the CNA.
The statement reads in part: ‘While we support and encourage the ICPC to dispassionately carry out its statutory function concerning this matter, it is also imperative that members of the Nigerian public should critically and objectively view this carefully orchestrated witch-hunt solely aimed to distract Ojo Olatunde Amos unduly.
‘The frivolous allegation of espionage against the person of Ojo Olatunde Amos, a patriotic Nigerian whom we are aware has no dual citizenship and the Chief Accounting Officer of the National Assembly is of great concern.
‘However, it is important as well that we set the record straight for record purposes. Firstly, Sunnet System and Datacom Services Limited were engaged in September 2019, long before Ojo Olatunde Amos assumed duty as the Clerk to the National Assembly to carry out a forensic audit of the National Assembly ICT infrastructure and services.
‘The report of that exercise clearly exposed the humungous rot and corruption being perpetrated by the ICT contractors…hired by the National Assembly then.
‘Upon assumption of duty and discovery of the sorry state of National Assembly ICT with attendant grave implications on the functionality of the institution as an Arm of government and the National Security implications of leaving the sensitive national database in the hand of a foreigner, Ojo Olatunde Amos swiftly commenced the sanitization of the ICT Unit of the National Assembly, given the magnitude of indictment against the former contractors.’
The Amos Ojo-led administration has upgraded the internet bandwidth capability from supposed 930MBPS (shared connectivity) to 1.55GBPS dedicated internet bandwidth with connectivity extension to the residences of top leadership and management of National Assembly.