The mode of payment and execution of the Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP) involving Nigerian lawmakers are enmeshed in corruption and should be reviewed, participants at a summit on Wednesday in Abuja resolved.
The two-day National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector was attended by President Muhammadu Buhari and drew over 400 other participants from government, civil society, and the media.
It was organised by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in collaboration with Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
According to a communique sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday, the participants’ from the event made their resolutions based on President Buhari’s address as well as discussions at five technical and interactive sessions.
In his address, President Buhari had lamented that there was little to show for over one trillion Naira budgeted for constituency projects of the National Assembly members in the last 10 years.
PREMIUM TIMES in July had also reported the ICPC saying an estimated N2 trillion was spent on constituency projects in Nigeria since the year 2000 without commensurate development at the grassroots.
The zonal intervention projects in Nigeria were first introduced during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. It aims to ensure equity in the allocation of projects sited in the constituencies of state and federal lawmakers by various Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) of government in the budgets of the federation or state.
In their communique after the summit, the participants urged that the projects be retained despite the challenges, saying, however, that transparency and accountability must be visible in the conception, planning, and implementation processes.
They also called for a robust sensitisation to ensure citizens engagement on the existence of ZIPs and their operation as they affect their local communities.
The participants further urged that the project sponsors must ensure due diligence and proper project costing with the executing agency before inserting a figure in the budget.
According to the communique, the ZIPs should only comprise physical infrastructure projects rather than soft projects such as empowerment which is heavily prone to corruption.
The participants, therefore, suggested the suspension of capacity-building constituency projects, and particularly the so-called “grants”, which they described as just free money without accountability, aside being difficult to track.
Some of the other recommendations, including:
“RECOMMEND that executing agencies must be made to ensure proper and complete documentation of evidence of project deliveries and confirmation of test and functionality of project and items delivered.
“RECOMMEND that consultants, agencies and their heads should henceforth be penalised for failing to ensure compliance with specifications.
“RECOMMEND that Zonal Intervention Projects should only be on tangibles and physical infrastructure projects such as construction projects as against soft projects such as empowerment which is heavily prone to corruption.
“Unutilised Zonal Intervention Projects releases should be mopped-up to the treasury at the end of the financial year.
“FURTHER RECOMMEND that domiciliation of Zonal Intervention Projects must be done in sync with the executing agencies with regards to planning and costing. Sponsors must ensure due diligence and proper project costing with the executing agency before inserting a figure in the budget.
“This will reduce substantially the problem of under-appropriation and projects abandonment. This should also reduce incidences of unnecessary change in the scope, structure, location, and concept of the projects as already observed.
“STRONGLY RECOMMEND that Contractors, complicit public servants and project sponsors who divert funds meant for constituencies or other people-oriented welfare projects or who by other means reduce the quality and value of such projects should be held to account.
“STRONGLY RECOMMEND that Government should not accept new projects in a particular constituency if there are existing underfunded projects in that constituency. Existing projects must be completed before the introduction of new ones.
“RECOMMEND that ZIPs should as much as possible necessarily be integrated into the State’s or Local Government’s projects or system to ensure post-project management and utilisation.
“RECOMMEND that Empowerment and Capacity-building constituency projects should be temporarily suspended being basically a window for self-aggrandisement and corruption, particularly the so-called “grants”, which is just free money without accountability asides being difficult to track.
“If however, they must go on, the implementation process and mechanism must be completely overhauled to put it strictly under the absolute control of the executing agency. Distribution of the procured items, record keeping and retirement of the amount in the project should be handled strictly by the executing agency with the sponsoring legislator only nominating and identifying beneficiaries.”