Group alleges irregularities in N100b lawmakers’ projects
N1.4b investments lack specific locations
The controversies trailing the 2018 budget passage seem to be unending, as a civil society group raised a fresh concern over “observed irregularities”, especially the N100 billion zonal intervention projects initiated by members of the National Assembly.
A transparency platform called Tracka, under the BudgIT, said that considering the challenges of service delivery in the country, it elected to follow budgeted projects in local communities to ensure best practices and proper executions to citizens’ satisfaction.
The platform, which allows citizens to collaborate, track and give feedback on public projects in their communities, said the alarm became necessitated as assessed lack of inclusion in the initiation of such capital projects, has already led to increased number of abandoned or mismanaged projects across Nigeria, despite huge funds allocated as capital expenditure.
A quick review of the constituency projects, the group noted, revealed that 50% of projects initiated by the lawmakers from 2016 till date have been titled “empowerment projects,” which include the disbursement of items like sewing machines, bikes, tricycles, grinding machines, and more to constituency members.
But the challenge, the Communications Lead at BudgIT, Abiola Afolabi pointed out, is that these disbursements, have however, remained questionable.
“For example, how do these politicians decide on ‘empowerment items’ needed by their constituencies? How do they decide ‘who gets what’ in the community? What impact do these items, which are mostly imported, have on the economy?
“In 2017, a total of N54 billion was allocated for empowerment provisions and the sum has increased to N61 billion in the 2018 budget,” he said.
He said that Tracka has already identified more than 800 projects that were budgeted under agencies that do not have the mandate to execute the projects, particularly education projects found under the Ministry of Water Resources.
Specifically, there is a construction of five three-block classrooms in Bunyun and four other locations in Plateau State that were awarded to Lower Basin River Board Development under Water Resources for N70 million.
“These projects make us raise eyebrow. Does the Ministry of Water Resources have the competence to execute education projects?” he queried.
Tracka Head, Uadamen Ilevbaoje, said that while it is understandable, the complexities around constituency projects and the wall hole for corruption, it is important that due process must be followed by all agencies and officials involved.
In addition to the irregularities, projects with unspecified locations worth N1.4 billion were observed in the 2018 zonal intervention projects, warning that failure to provide the locations is antithetical to democracy, depriving communities, civil society organisations and auditing bodies of information and opportunities to monitor and ensure proper implementation of the public officials’ obligations to the people.
“It also provides an avenue to syphon off public funds meant for project implementation,” he added.
He therefore, called on citizens to also keep track of allocations under the purview of some key lawmakers in the National Assembly, engage their elected representatives in carrying out needs assessment to ensure their needs are covered in the budget and equally keep an eye on the funds, track projects until completion and demand accountability.
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