IT is gladdening to know that the Federal Government has decided to monitor and verify constituency projects before paying contractors. It is shocking that such a mechanism was not put in place in when the idea was conceived and only had to be done after the nation lost over a trillion naira in the past ten years, if President Muhammadu Buhari’s figure is anything to go by.
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That the Federal Government quickly moved to create this accountability mechanism after lamenting the scandalous wastages on the constituency projects of the National Assembly is very commendable. We hope they go beyond mere monitoring before payment. The projects should be audited to bring those who embezzled their funds to book.
We, however, call on the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Federal Ministry for Special Duties to harmonise their evaluation teams. They should invite other stakeholders like the mass media, Labour, community leaders and civil society groups to join in the effort to avoid leaving the task to civil servants alone for obvious reasons.
A special task force of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, should also be on standby to ensure that all monies set aside for the constituency projects are put to judicious use.
As a strong pro-true federalism newspaper, we do not believe that the Legislative Arm of government should be involved in the constituency projects issue. Most of these projects, such as boreholes, drainages, repair of damaged amenities, rural roads and others, are the jobs of the State and Local Government tiers.
Full autonomy for the States and Local Governments should enable them to take care of these issues and leave members of the Federal Legislature to concentrate on their core duties of law making, checks and balances and representation.
However, while we struggle to wean the nation from its subsisting ugly military past, we have a duty to ensure that monies spent to take Federal presence to the grassroots and give lawmakers extra relevance to the people are rightfully committed to that purpose.
One of our grounds for rejecting the constituency project idea was that the Federal Government lacked the structure to monitor projects in the 469 Senatorial and Federal Constituencies nationwide.
The creation of the monitoring mechanism will fill the erstwhile void if they apply themselves diligently to the job.
In our view, the two chambers of the National Assembly should also create their respective Committees on Constituency Projects to liaise with the monitors from the Executive branch in carrying out this assignment.
They should constantly inform the public on progress being made and the level of budget support these projects are getting from the Executive. That way, the constituency projects idea can be justified.