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Three-Day AKBPPTrainingForSMEs Ends In A'Ibom

T he Akwa Ibom State Bureau of Public Procurement (AKBPP) recently organised a three-day stakeholders training workshop for small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) which cut across the three senatorial districts of Akwa Ibom State with a call on them to get their various businesses duly registered for proper identification. The objective of the workshop which was in conjunction with the World Bank and Nectar Global Resources Limited was aimed at enlightening the participants on the use of guidelines for increase participation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in public procurement in Akwa Ibom State. The workshop kick-started for Eket Senatorial District at Eket Local Government Council Secretariat. Declaring the workshop open the executive secretary of the bureau, Mr Ndifreke Akpan, urged the participants to ensure that they register their businesses properly and follow due process for them to have access to government contract. He stated that the training workshop was to train them on public procurement, enlighten them on the various websites of AKBPP, as well as giving SMEs the opportunity to participate in public procurement. The executive secretary added that the workshop was also to sensitize them on how they could be successful entrepreneurs in their various businesses to better their lives and improve on their economic status. Akpan assured that the workshop would be organized frequently to get them prepared and better equipped for success to be recorded, calling on them to put into practice what they had been taught to move their businesses forward and take them to greater heights. The chairman, Eket Local Government Council, Mr Nsikak John, commended the participants for attending the workshop, hoping that it would go a long way in improving their entrepreneurial skills. He lauded AKBPP for organizing the workshop for the good of the people, appealing to the participants to take the workshop seriously, be focused and committed, as well as practise what they had been taught to sharpen their skills and improve upon their lives. The chairman assured the participants of support to assist them in their businesses in recording success and achieving their goals of becoming successful entrepreneurs. Speaking on the theme: Impact of SMEs on the Economy, the head of Entrepreneurship and Social Investment Desk, Office of the Special Assistant to the President on Social Development Goals (SDGs), Mr Moshood Lawal, charged the participants to take advantage of the various business opportunities available to improve on their economic status and ensure that they get their businesses duly registered for proper identification. He maintained that SMEs have continued to play significant roles in the growth, development and industrialization of many economies the world over to include China, Malaysia, Korea, India and Bangladesh among others, as they are seen as the bedrock of any meaningful economic development. Lawal noted that in the case of Nigeria, SMEs have performed below expectation due to a combination of problems which includes attitude and habits of SMEs owners, adding that the potentials and opportunities of SMEs in Nigeria to rebound and play the crucial role of engine of growth, development, industrialization, wealth creation, poverty reduction and employment creation were enormous. He stated that it required a paradigm shift from paying lip service to a practical radical approach, as well as focusing on this all-important sector of the economy by the government by addressing the problem realistically and harped on the need for the government at local, state and federal to involve the SMEs in policy formulation and execution of maximum effect, while SMEs themselves needed to change their attitude and habits relating to entrepreneurial development. Lawal categorized SMEs in Nigeria to micro enterprise which has more than 10 employment rate with an asset of naira and millions excluding land and building to be less than 10; small enterprise less than 50 with an asset of more than 100, while medium enterprise has less than 200 employment rate and is less than 1000 in assets. He enumerated the roles and functions of SMEs in Nigeria to include generation of employment and income redistribution, poverty alleviation and wealth creation, a driving force in interrelated flow of trade, investment and technology, contribution to substantial local capital formation and source of foreign exchange, mechanism for technological and managerial training, as well as bridging societal class division and primordial barriers. Others are being a channel for ensuring industrial diversification and dispersal; active instrument for rural and social development, for innovative product niches; rapid response to market changes and opportunities; absorption of indigenous technological innovation; promotion of cultural affinity and global exchange and utilization of local raw materials. He also listed the challenges facing SMEs to include limited and poor infrastructures, transportation, power and water supply, weak access to financial inputs, little or no knowledge on source and application of funds, lack of basic managerial capacity knowledge, skills and attitude. Others are multiplicity of taxes and levies, government policy inconsistencies and bureaucracy, access to modern technology, unfair competition by corporations, low access to information, as well as poor development of appropriate marketing strategy. Lawal maintained that there have been government intervention strategies to include Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Bank of Industry which focuses on supporting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) seeking funds for technological and managerial purposes, Bank of Agriculture which provides support to agroallied MSMEs, Industrial Training Fund (ITF) which specializes in providing industrial skills for SMEs, the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) which was established in 2010. The MSME survival fund is also another government intervention strategy which is a conditional grant to support vulnerable micro and small enterprises in meeting their payroll obligations, as well as safeguarding jobs in the MSMEs sector. The scheme is estimated to save not less than 1.3 million jobs across the country and specifically impact over 35,000 individuals per state. The N75 billion for Nigerian Youth Investment Fund Programme (NYIP) tagged The Youth Bank, was also another intervention strategy aimed at creating financial support for creative and innovative Nigerian youths within the age range of 18 to 35 years. He added that MSMEs and government whether local, state or federal have a symbolic relationship which needed one another for the economy to grow, while the government provides the enabling environment for MSMEs to thrive, calling on SMEs operators to be willing to imbibe contemporary managerial skills required to compete globally as Nigeria's potential for greatness can only be attained if the SMEs are given the priority they deserve as they remain the bedrock for economic development. In a paper titled: SMEs and Public Procurement: Challenges and Solutions, by Mr Ibrahim Abu, a Public Procurement Reform specialist, highlighted the common errors experienced in SMEs to include failure to follow up on notices of bidding opportunities, late submission of bids, failure to sign bidding document and not properly studying the building document requirement such as the technical specifications. He called on SMEs to pay special attention to studying the technical specifications and the requirement of bidding document as the training would be provided on regular basis by AKBPP to educate them on sharpening their entrepreneurial skills. Abu, an engineer, listed the qualifications of bidders to include possessing a legal capacity to enter a contract, fulfilling obligations to pay taxes, pensions, contributions, financial capability, technical-qualified manpower, while grounds for disqualifications of bids or bidders are establishing evidence of promised or gift of money, a contractor failing to perform or exercise due care in performance of a procurement contract and bidders whose name is in the list of debarred contractors among others. In a paper titled Adaptation of Existing Public Procurement Procedures to Support Increased Participation of SMEs in the Award of Akwa Ibom State Government Contract, the presenter, Mr Biebele Airmie announced that SMEs play a major role on the Nigerian economy in general and Akwa Ibom State in particular as they account for a majority of the businesses in the state and contribute to job creation and the overall economic development of the state. In a sub-theme titled: Understanding the Akwa Ibom Public Procurement Law 2020, Arimie noted that one of the objectives of the law was to create ample opportunities for the citizenry, particularly SMEs, to partake in the economic opportunities and benefits of public procurement in the state. Also in a paper titled New Framework for Public Procurement in Akwa Ibom State under the Public Procurement Law 2020, it maintained that the law provides for the principles, supervisory institutions and operational structures, as well as the scope process, methods, supervision, complaint mechanism, code of conduct and offences relating to procurement of goods, works and services and disposal of assets by the Akwa Ibom State government. The fundamental principles of procurement include budgetary provision, procurement plans, open competitive bidding, contract award to winning bidder, while the principles of sound procurement include economy, efficiency, fairness, transparency and accountability. Functions of the bureau include formulating of general policies and guidelines relating to public procurement for the approval of the council, issuing out of procurement rules with council approval, publicizing and explaining the provisions of the law, supervising the implementation of established procurement policies and rules, monitoring prices of tendered items, as well as keeping a data base of prices. Others are publishing details of major contracts in the procurement journal, collating and maintaining an archival system of all state procurement plans and information, procurement plans and information, procurement research and surveys, as well as organizing, training and development for procurement professionals among others. On MSMEs and Public Procurement Guidelines on Improved Participation by Mr Ibrahim Abu, he described public procurement as the acquisition of goods, works or services on behalf of or by a public authority such as a government agency. He listed the key objectives to include value for money and fit for purpose, transparent, timely and being accountable, competition and equal opportunities, economy and efficiency, rules and process-based. Stages of public procurement are pre-bidding stage which involves determining procurement method, bidding stage which involves solicitation documents preparation and publication, pre-bid proposal meeting and site visit, bid proposal submission, as well as opening contract award, signing and bidding stage which is the contract administration. The training workshop took place at Local Government Council Secretariat, Abak, for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, while that of Uyo Senatorial District was held at the Civil Service Auditorium, Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat, and had in attendance government officials to include permanent secretaries, among others.

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