By Rafiu Ajakaye
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is an emerging phenomenon in the Nigerian political space, thanks to his style, his drive to make things easy for the poor within resources available to him, and the pace at which he is demystifying governance. He lives in his own house. He drives his own car. He carries his own files. He goes about town on official duties without the air that comes with governance in the country. And he recently made himself a subject of school quiz when he officially wrote to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the anti-graft body, to probe his own administration on claims that N300m of Local government funds was being diverted monthly. Who does that?
He went a step higher a few months ago when he became the country’s first chief executive to introduce social audits of public projects. While several Kwarans considered the step as the next phase of his efforts to sanitise governance in the state, particularly given his record of involving neutral parties in monitoring government programmes, a few others said he was only trying to kill the Freedom of Information Bill. They warned the civic group (ENETSUD) tapped to partner with the government that the social audit was a kiss of death for proponents of the FOI. But the Governor said he meant every word about the social audit and that it was not intended to kill the FOI. For him, the social audit is meant to strengthen transparency, ensure good governance, and strengthen public confidence in government for better service delivery. It is meant to break the ice. But his critics would have none of that. They said it was all talk!
Today, social auditing has become a reality with at least six projects now being examined by the civic group to know whether works done by contractors are commensurate with public funds released for the projects. In the first phase, the College of Education Road (Ilorin); Government High School renovation Adeta Ilorin; Patigi Secondary School Patigi; Diamond Underpass Geri-Alimi; Ilesha Baruba-Gwanara Road; and Cargo Terminal Airport Road are to be audited.
The exercise is the first of its kind in Nigeria. What the Governor has done is to volunteer all relevant technical documents to the civic group to conduct independent critique of the projects to determine whether there is value for public funds sunk into them. It is fair to note that the social audit partly followed an outcry in some quarters about the quality of jobs done on some projects.
This is beyond doubt a rare show of transparency, accountability, and oft-absent political will to make things work for the people. In doing this, the Governor is not expecting everything to be perfect. He instead intended the social audit to build confidence and open a new page in public accountability on the part of everybody involved in project conception, management, and execution. As he mentioned in the interface with ENETSUD and elsewhere, outcome of the social audit could lead to government directing contractors to return to site to correct observations made. And it may well lead to some contractors getting a pat on the back for job well done. Or a red card for erring ones. Similarly, it is a sign to government’s project monitors to always do the right thing as their own judgment may not always guarantee a pass mark for any contractors. Ultimately, no one would get away with poor job in Kwara. Not anymore.
Some persons have suggested that any revelations of poor jobs would rub off badly on the Governor. That shows they do not know him. He seeks the best for his people. His focus is to gently and steadily move everyone to do their own bit as he is doing his. He appreciates the institutional gap that had long existed in project conception and execution and he wants to leave a legacy of being that leader who insisted that the public must get value for their money. Accepting to do social audit is an evidence that he is not one who gives contract and asks for some unlawful returns. All he desires is the best for the state.
And there is no let up in this regard. For the first time in Kwara, the Governor has officially activated the Public Procurement Agency with the recent appointment of Mallam Raheem AbdulBaki as its pioneer General Manager. You know what? That law had long existed in Kwara but no one had the balls to implement it for reasons readers may guess. It is not every time a state is blessed with leaders who walk their talk. Kwara is currently having one in the Governor who tells anyone who cares to listen that he has nothing to hide. And every step he takes speaks just to that.
Ajakaye is CPS to the Governor