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How NASS illegally divert funds for constituency projects — ICPC reports

THE Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, has raised the alarm about how senators diverted money meant for their senatorial districts to non-existing projects, thereby denying their constituents from reaping dividends of democracy.

It consequently uncovered how the National Assembly illegally added N20 billion to N100 billion annual constituency projects.

The ICPC, in its interim constituency and executive projects tracking report obtained in Abuja, exposed how the National Assembly embedded additional projects into the 2021 mandate budget of MDAs, which is a long way affected budget performance, as well as distorted developmental planning and implementation of the 2021 fiscal year.

In the report, the ICPC cited other areas of infractions where lawmakers allegedly awarded contracts to themselves or to proxy companies.

The report read: “Budget insertion remains one of the egregious, yet illegally acceptable phenomenon that has distorted the nation’s developmental planning and implementation of developmental programmes.

“In addition to the N100 billion appropriated annually for constituency projects, the National Assembly embedded additional projects into mandate budgets of MDAs. This is done to increase the project portfolios of concerned legislators and their influence on MDAs. The value of the insertion was in billions.

“Analysing the 2021 National Budget alone across key sectors of education, water resources, health, power, science and technology, environment, works and agriculture, we found duplication to the tune of over N20 billion.”

The report also pointed out that the “contract for the construction and renovation of blocks of the classroom at the Federal University Staff School, Wukari, Taraba South Senatorial District, executed by a company owned and operated directly by Senator Emmanuel Bwacha”, a project ICPC alleged was “haphazardly nominated, appropriated and executed in locations that have no need for such projects.”

In another development, ICPC alleged another contract infraction in the supplies of water rigs by a particular company to be executed in Taraba South.

The commission had alleged that “just two days after the award of the contract, ‘the said company’, wrote to the executing agency, Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority, informing it that it was involved in some sort of arrangements with its sister company in respect of the execution and requested that the contract sum should be into the bank account of the company owned by the sponsoring legislator.

“Funding was, therefore, made to the said company owned by the sponsoring legislator.”

In the report, the ICPC revealed that it was able to track a contract for the supplies of 686 water pumping machines to Kebbi Central Senatorial District awarded to a particular company owned by the children of the lawmaker representing the district.

The report read: “Various other projects were awarded and executed in Kebbi Central by three other companies owned and operated by the biological children of the sponsor.”

Similarly, the ICPC said in the report that it was able to track the project for the supplies of 19 units of 500KVA transformer to Delta North senatorial district, two of which “were stolen and sold by an aide of the sponsoring lawmaker, while one was found kept in a private house since 2018.

ICPC stated:  “While the culprit is on the run, the lawmaker has agreed to an undertaking to purchase and deliver to the commission the two transformers”.

Similarly, the commission cited the project valued at N149m for the training and empowerment of women and youths in Abaji, Kwali Federal Constituency awarded to a relative of the sponsoring legislator.

It was also replicated in Kastina Central Federal Constituency, where the sponsor single-handedly executed the contract after which the project said to have been valued at N49m was changed from its form and devalued by the lawmaker.

In another case, the supply of tricycles to Rivers West Senatorial District was an empowerment project, where the sponsor allegedly used one of her cronies as the contractor.

The commission alleged that “while the contract was never performed, the sum (N30m) was fully paid and shared.

The ICPC also revealed that some sponsoring legislators sometimes site projects on personal properties, which technically vests legal possession and ownership to them.

An example was cited of the diversion of funds for an agricultural empowerment project in Osun West Senatorial District to a training programme on cattle rearing and the actual supply of cattle.

The Bill of Quantities, BOQ, according to the ICPC report, indicated procurement and distribution of 250 cattle to beneficiaries.

The report said:  “While the intended beneficiaries were trained, no cattle were given to them, instead the lawmaker established a private ranch using the cattle procured with government’s fund.”

In Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, the commission alleged that the investigation led it to another youth empowerment scam carried out by the sponsoring lawmaker.

The commission alleged that some of the beneficiaries found in the list were randomly contacted, even as none of them acknowledged ever receiving any grant.

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