The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission,ICPC has advised communities to take interest and monitor implementation of constituency projects in their domains to ensure transparency.
The Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, gave the advice in Owerri on Tuesday at a Constituency Project Town Hall Meeting the agency organised in collaboration with the National Oreintation Agency (NOA) for stakeholders.
The theme of the meeting was “My Constituency, My Project”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Owasanoye was represented at the occasion by his State Commissioner, ICPC, Mr Arua Udensi.
Owasanoye said constituencies must be involved, monitor and even take ownership of constitency projects in their own interests.
He said that the consituency projects were projects that were selected by legislators and provided for in the budgets of government ministeries and agencies for execution.
According to the chairman, all these projects are located in communities across the country and are for the benefit of citizens.
Owasanoye said that in its drive to stop corruption in the projects executed by government, ICPC launched what it called Constitiuency Projects Tracking Group (CPTG) Initiative in 2019.
He said the agency commenced the first phase of tracking in 12 states to see whether constituency projects were executed and done satisfactorily.
“The exercise led to the recovery of equipment and machinery meant for the benefit of ordinary people which were kept away and were not distributed.
“Many of such have been distributed to beneficiaries and have since been put to use.
“In the process, ICPC recovered money for government from those who did not execute the projects, underperformed or inflated the cost of the projects.
“This year, the second phase has commenced. The scope of the exercise has now been widened to include those projects which are specifically developed and implemented by the executive arm of government.
“We are gathered here today to talk about how you, the community people, can be involved in the process of project transparency and accountability,” he said
Owasanoye said that the idea of constituiency and other government projects for communities was a valid evidence that government meant well for the peoiple and it is through these projects that government touched the lives of citizens.
“For this reason you the beneficairies, need to show interest in the selection, execution and use of these projects. In other words you need to take ownership of the projects for sustainability in the long time,” he said.
Mr Garba Abari, the Director General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), said that projects were inserted or sponsored by members of the National Assembly during the budget circle to get development closer to the grassroots.
Abari, who was represented by the NOA State Director in Imo, Mr Vitus Ekeocha, said that constitutiency projects gave the representatives of the peoiple the required opportunity to identify infrastructural lapses in their dormain for government intervention.
He said constituency projects covered several sub-heads including provision of books for local libraries, water borehole, health facilities, donation of computers to schools, roads construction among other areas that might interest a representative from a federal constituiency.
Abari said that NOA was partnering the ICPC to deliver the desired gains to the people.
He said ICPC had been interrogating the process of location and implementation of constitiuiency projects and found out that the vital component of the process was to get the citizens to buy-in or take ownership of these projects since essentially they meant to serve their communities.
“It is our view that when communities take ownership of these projects, there would be genuine interest to preserve and protect them.
“It will also ensure that contractors ever eager to maximise profits, execute the projects to the highest standard required.
“Community ownership will ensure that legislators and other officials of government are alerted when there is poor execution of these contracts and that they are also held accountable.
“It is, therefore, imperative that a new template for implementing the constituiency project be adopted.
“The new template we advocate under the new partnership between NOA and ICPC is for the people to own the entire process, beginning from conception to execution.
“It is through this that the aims of bringing government to the grassroots will be achieved,” Abari said.
Some of the participants commended the organisers for the programme, but expressed concern on the attitude of some politicians Found it difficult to deliver dividends of democracy to their constituencies.
They also asked how they would ascertain the actual amount given to representatives for constituency projects as it would determine what they would lay hands on to monitor or write petition if the need arose.
Other stakeholders wondered why politicians were not invited to the town hall meeting and why there was no proper lecture or seminar on project monitoring as part of the programme.
The Chairman, Ngor Okpala Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Geoffery Okoro, also one of the participants, said it was important that the community members or stakeholders had knowledge of the ammount budgeted for each project for proper monitoring.
He asked of at the main duties of ICPC and EFCC, arguing that often ICPC would initiate cases, but later hand it over to EFCC and at the end of the day the culprits would not be prosecuted.
Mr Ifeanyi Nkwocha, Chairman, Owerri West President-Generals, enjoined NOA and ICPC to organise seminars on how to monitor constituency projects and not just an interactive session.
He said the communities should be able to find out what their constitiency project were, who is the contractor, whether it is a federal or state project, check the level of project completion and how much it was budgeted for.
Mr Ugwuezumba Onwuemeodo, another participant from Mbaise, said that the challenge of constituency project monitoring included lack of information, fear of the unknown and people’s lack of confidence on politicians.
He urged NOA and ICPC to ensure they were part of signing of constituency contracts and that community members were aware of the projects and the materials that would be used for the execution.