The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission has accused National Assembly members of stealing billions of naira in the name of constituency projects. The ICPC, in a report tagged “Constituency Projects Tracking Group”, tracked 424 projects from 2015-2018 constituency projects between June and August 2019 across the 12 states of Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Edo, Enugu, Imo, Kano, Kogi, Lagos, Osun and Sokoto as well as the FCT, accused the lawmakers of duplicating of contracts using the same description, same narrative, same amount, same location and awarded by the same agency.
The ICPC, in the report signed by its chairman, Bolaji Owasanoye, alleged that the lawmakers did this to bring the amounts allocated to them within certain approval threshold of executing agencies to avoid ministerial tenders.
It also alleged insertion into budgets of constituency projects under the guise of “capacity building and empowerment projects”.
“These Capacity Building and Empowerment projects have become a convenient conduit for embezzling public funds by the sponsoring legislators and the executing agency as they are difficult to track and verify due to their “soft” nature,” the report, President Muhammadu Buhari had in November said there has been very little benefits to the grassroots from the ₦1 trillion that had been earmarked for constituency projects in the last 10 years. “This is so in spite of the wide disproportionality between appropriations for constituency projects and statutory projects of some implementing agencies, especially those of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency and Border Community Development Agency.
“For instance, in 2015, while the total mandate allocation for SMEDAN was N1,592,323,599, constituency projects allocation was N5,814,369,579,” the report said. “95 per cent of these constituency projects allocations were for empowerment and capacity building projects. This appropriation jumped up in 2016 to N11,120,099,958; 741 per cent of mandate budget with empowerment and capacity building projects taking 99% of the amount.” “The size, number and types of zonal Intervention projects domiciled in SMEDAN and BCDA, for instance, have turned them into conduits for, and means of abuse of constituency projects and therefore vulnerable to corruption.” The ICPC recommended that empowerment and capacity building constituency projects be temporarily suspended as “they are just free money without accountability, aside from being difficult to track. If however they must go on, the implementation process and mechanism must be completely overhauled to put it strictly under absolute control of the executing agency.” It also recommended that “In order to reduce the influence of the sponsoring legislators on the emergence of a preferred bidder and strengthen the bidding process, project sites must be determined and given by legislators before advertisement for, and award of contract so that award letters will be specific and particular about projects locations”. The spokesman of the Senate, Godiya Akwashiki, did not answer phone calls by Daily Trust seeking his reaction to the allegations.