The federal government may be wasting its investment of $6 million (about N942 million) monthly, which amounts to N11.3 billion annually on Web Fontaine, a company that was contracted to improve infrastructure and technological advancement for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
The company also powers the Automated System of Customs Data (ASYCUDA), a system currently being used by the revenue generating service for cargo clearing data processing.
The House of Representatives Committee on Customs chided the company over deficiencies in its service, saying that the government was paying it $6 million dollars monthly without any commensurate investment and efficiency to show for it.
Chairman of the Committee, Nakudu Sabo, expressed the NASS's dissatisfaction on Monday, when he led members of the committee on an inspection tour of scanning services in view of the six months federal government granted service providers in the destination inspection (DI) scheme. Their visit was also to ascertain the readiness of the NCS to take over the DI scheme.
Nakudu, who frowned at the problem of interconnectivity which came up in virtually all the customs command they visited in Lagos, said the volume of investment by the firm in Apapa was very poor compared to how much the company was being paid by government to maintain the service. The NCS management in Apapa could not even give the firm a pass mark in its assessment.
He said, "I keep hearing Web Fontaine everywhere I go. Just look at what you have here, very few computers, one scanner, dilapidated air conditioners and so on and you collect $6 million from government every month whereas the whole investment here is even not up to N2 million."
He also picked holes in the company's inability to remodel the system till date when its contract was originally supposed to expire in December 2012.
"When were you planning to remodel the system? Were you waiting till after your contract has expired? Are you conscious of the fact that Apapa Area one command is the number one revenue generator for government and you did not deem it necessary to remodel it? You were given a job that is supposed to expire by December and also supposed to be remodelled, yet you are still trying to remodel in January 2013," Nakudu queried at the ASYCUDA office in Apapa area one command of the NCS.
Representatives of Web Fontaine said Apapa had been actually upgraded but now needed to be remodelled.
The legislators toured scanning operations site in both Lagos Ports Complex, Apapa and the Tin Can Island Port Complex and met with Cotecna Destination Inspection Limited (CDIL) and Global Scan Systems Limited, two of the service providers providing scanning services and Risk Assessment Report (RAR).
They have a seven years contract with federal government on Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) arrangement, which expired in December last year but was extended till June 2013.
Nakudu further observed that issuance of RAR still had some issues, noting that Customs preparedness to take over the DI scheme on expiration of service providers' contract should be considered.
The committee also observed serious lapses at PTML, where scanning operations were very poor. The service provider was yet to build a permanent scanner even though their original seven years contract expired last December.