Home Economy Senators padded 2021 budget with N100bn constituency projects, shared proceeds—ICPC Report

Senators padded 2021 budget with N100bn constituency projects, shared proceeds—ICPC Report

by Business News Report

Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC  has accused members of the National Assembly of padding annual budgets with constituency projects which were never executed while the budgetary provisions were shared among the members. The body has thus raised alarm on how Senators diverted the money designed for their Senatorial Districts to other non existing projects, thereby denying their constituents from benefiting from dividends of democracy. The agency said it has 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 exercise report exposed how  the National Assembly embedded additional projects into the 2021 budget of MDAs which has in a long way affected  budget performance as well as distorting developmental planning and implementation in the 2021 fiscal year.

According to the ICPC,  although with the collaboration of the Ministry of Finance, implementation actions were restrained, it was however concerned about the practice as it has become a norm that “even legislative aides and National Assembly staff serving in the appropriation committees also insert projects in the capital budgets of agencies without the knowledge of the legislators or the agencies. In the report, the ICPC cited other areas of  infraction where by in constituency projects for Senatorial districts,  lawmakers were accused of manipulatively awarding to themselves or through cronies companies by sponsor and executing agencies.  The report read: “Budget insertion still remain one of the egregious, yet illegally acceptable phenomena 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 added additional projects into budget of MDAs. This is done to increase the project portfolios of concerned legislators and their influence on MDAs. The value of the insertion were in billions. 

“Analysing the 2021 National Budget alone across key sector of education, water resources, health, power, science and technology, environment, works and agriculture, we found duplications to the tune of over N20 billion.” The report also pointed out that “Contract for the construction and renovation of Blocks of Classroom at the Federal University Staff School, Wakuri Taraba South Senatorial District was executed by a company owned and operated directly by a Senator, 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 paid 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.  The Commission alleged that , “the project for the procurement of water rigs to Taraba South, the rig which were never distributed, were distributed and supplied to the sponsor and were later found in the custody of the sponsor, commercialised, and the proceeds paid into the sponsor’s personal bank account. In the report, the ICPC has said 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 said, “Various other projects were awarded and executed in Kebbi Central by three other companies owned and operated by the biological children of the sponsor”, the Commission alleged. Similarly, the ICPC said in the report that it was able to track the project for the supplies of 19 500KVA transformer to Delta North Senatorial District, two of which “were stolen and sold by an aide of the sponsoring lawmaker and one was found kept in a private house since 2018.

ICPC said, “while the culprit is on the run, the lawmaker has agreed to an undertaken to purchase and deliver to the Commission the two transformers”. In another development, the Commission further cited for example, 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 legislation. It was also replicated in Kastina Central Federal Constituency where the sponsor singlehandedly executed the contract after which the project said to have valued at N49m was changed from its form and devalued by the lawmaker. In another case,  supply of tricycles to Rivers West Senatorial District as empowerment project, where the sponsor allegedly used one of her cronies (boy) as the contractor. The Commission alleged that “while the contract was never performed, the sum (N30m) was fully paid and shared.

The ICPC has also revealed that some sponsoring legislators sometimes sit projects on the personal properties, which technically vests legal possession and ownership to them. An example was cited from an agricultural empowerment project in Osun West Senatorial District to be a training programme cattle rearing and actual supply for cattle. The BOQ, according to ICPC report, indicated 250 cattle to be procured and distributed to beneficiaries. The report said, “while the intended beneficiaries were trained, no cattle was 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 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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