The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has warned government officials against the duplication of projects in the national budget.
It also cautioned lawmakers against such duplication in their annual zonal Intervention projects, commonly called the constituency project.
ICPC chairman, Bolaji Owasanoye, issued the warning, Tuesday, at a Policy Dialogue on Corruption and Cost of Governance in Nigeria in Abuja.
The event, which held virtually, was organised by the training and research arm of ICPC, Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN).
It had in attendance the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, and other dignitaries.
In his presentation, Mr Owasanoye lamented that despite the millions budgeted for the funding of the over-two-decade community projects annually, thousands of these projects are left without ”diligent scrutiny of need, implementation or otherwise.
He added that some of the legislative constituency projects are duplicated featuring as projects of the executive.
‘RCCG exposed project duplication’
Citing a recent case of a road project duplication, the anti-graft agency’s chairman identified how the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) alerted the public on a road project it had implemented as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but was also awarded as an executive project.
He said his commission would not only track selected projects but would also digitise the records executive and constituency projects.
He said, ”Thousands of projects are repeated annually in the budget without diligent scrutiny of need, implementation or otherwise. Some are duplicated as annual zonal intervention projects otherwise called constituency projects of the legislature while also featuring as projects of the executive.
”Funding is released for both insertions without any mechanism for monitoring and evaluation and reconciliation of funding. Recently the RCCG blew the whistle on a road project it had implemented as CSR but which suddenly was ‘inadvertently’ awarded as an executive project.
”The incident rightly became the subject of an inquiry by the legislature. ICPC’s response to this challenge is not only to track selected projects but we annually digitise executive and constituency projects and upload same on our website for citizen verification through our toll-free line.”
He called on Nigerians to visit its website for the breakdown of constituency projects for 2021, urging the public to become watchdogs of projects in their communities.
”The breakdown of projects for 2021 has already been uploaded on our website and we encourage the public to become watchdogs of projects in their communities. We are working with the budget office to track funding of such projects as we prepare for our 2021 tracking of the constituency and executive projects,” he added.
In his remarks, Tunde Babawale, who is the acting provost, Anti-corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), said wasteful practices are often seen in the country in the forms of duplication of functions across Ministries Department and Agencies (MDAs), embezzlement of public funds, kickbacks from contracts, procurement fraud, and the diversion of public funds into private hands.
The professor said there would be significant progress in the country if the wasteful practices of public officials can be curbed.
On her part, the Finance Minister, Mrs Ahmed, said the need for the reduction of cost of governance was in line with President Buhari’s policy for a review of government payroll.
“While working to increase revenue, we will work to reduce the high cost of governance and I am glad that ICPC is taking this initiative as its natural mandate is to prevent corruption,” she said.
She revealed that her ministry had designed a strategic revenue initiative that was aimed at solving the problem of revenue deficiency by expanding revenue sources, and also reducing cost by alternating processes that give room for corruption such as IPPIS, GIFMIS.
She also stated that a transparency portal had been launched to provide access to citizens to view transactions from agencies and monitor how the government was performing its transactions.
Mr Owasanoye’s comment comes amid a revelation by BudgIT Nigeria, a civic tech group, in its latest report issued on Tuesday, showing that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved an estimated 316 duplicated projects in the ₦13.6 trillion 2021 budget.
“Our analysis of the 2021Budget reveals over 316 duplicated capital projects totalling N39.5bn, among other loopholes for corruption,” BudgIT said in the report.
BudgIT also said it also found zero audit records of the N10.02tn received by the security sector between 2015 and 2021.
The zonal intervention projects were first introduced in Nigeria during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. It was conceived 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.
PREMIUM TIMES in July 2019 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.
Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari had also in 2019 said there have been very little benefits to the grassroots from the ₦1 trillion that had been earmarked for constituency projects in the last 10 years.
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