In what is a further dent to the anti-corruption war of the Federal Government, Tracka, a project of civil society group- BudgIT, on Thursday lamented the situation where the country is today littered with abandoned, uncompleted and poorly implemented constituency and zonal intervention projects nominated by members of the National Assembly.
In a statement by Ilevbaoje Uadamen, its head, Tracka said between 2015 and 2019 for example, projects worth N270bn have either been left incomplete or poorly implemented, despite the huge amount of funds allocated for capital expenditure yearly by the government.
For example, it raised the alarm over what it termed “wasteful empowerment projects” nominated by members of the National Assembly which were valued at N58bn in the 2019 Zonal Intervention Projects.
It condemned the level of poor service delivery across the country, lamenting that the Zonal Intervention Projects account for N58bn of the N100bn Constituency Projects, are practically used as “political benefits.”
The situation was blamed on a deliberate lack of citizen inclusion in the nomination of such Zonal Intervention Projects, leading to an escalating number of abandoned projects across the country, Tracka research has shown.
Aside from abandoned projects, Tracka said its analysis shows these empowerment programmes include the disbursement of items like sewing machines, bikes, tricycles, grinding machines and the likes to constituency members.
According to Uadamen, “while we advocate genuine citizen empowerment, the regular pattern is, saying the least, questionable. In 2018 and 2019 alone, a total of N61bn and N58bn were allocated respectively for empowerment provisions.
“How do politicians come to determine the empowerment needs of their constituents without need assessment nor inclusion in the decision-making process? How do they decide the beneficiaries?” he queried.
For example, in the 2019 budget, Tracka said it discovered under the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), that N1.5bn was allocated for provision of ICT, Mathematics, and English language textbooks for JSS1-3 by MMP to selected secondary schools. We note with dismay that these projects bear no details of the states, local governments and senatorial districts of beneficiaries, same as there are zero specifications of where the projects will be domiciled. In total, projects with unspecified locations (in the 2019 budget) account for more than N5.8bn out of N100bn total.
“The failure to provide these locations is antithetical to democracy because it deprives communities, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and auditing bodies the opportunity to monitor and ensure proper implementation of the government’s obligations to the people,” Uadamen lamented further.
Continuing, the Tracka said it found over 650 projects budgeted under agencies that do not have the mandate to execute them.
“For instance, some empowerment projects are packaged under agencies of the presidency which we believe are either priority misplacement or even channels for embezzlement. Such projects include the “supply of motorcycles, grinding machines and sewing machines for distribution in 11 federal constituencies of Bauchi State,” for N330m by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Office of the Presidency.
“We are seeing a pattern where citizens are handpicked and constituency projects are used for political purposes, the Tracka head added.
The statement challenged elected representatives to properly engage their constituents in the budget-making process. As the fundamental purpose of constituency projects, this is the ultimate way to ensure that the core needs of the citizens are in a timely fashion captured in the annual fiscal plan, as rural communities also feel the impact of the federal government.