Tracka has raised alarm over “wasteful empowerment projects” in the 2019 Zonal Intervention Projects, nominated by members of the National Assembly.
The organization also reiterates its condemnation of poor service delivery in the country, noting that the Zonal Intervention Projects account for N58 billion of the N100 billion Constituency Projects, which are practically used as “political benefits.”
The lack of citizen inclusion in the nomination of Zonal Intervention Projects has led to an escalating number of abandoned projects across the country, Tracka research has shown. Between 2015 to 2019, projects worth N270 billion are either left incomplete or poorly implemented, despite the huge amount of funds allocated for capital expenditure yearly.
Aside from abandoned projects, Tracka analysis reveals that over 50% of nominated projects from 2016 till date are “empowerment programmes.” These include the disbursement of items like sewing machines, bikes, tricycles, grinding machines and the likes to constituency members.
“While we advocate genuine citizen empowerment, the regular pattern is, saying the least, questionable,” says Ilevbaoje Uadamen, head of Tracka. “In 2018 and 2019 alone, a total of N61 billion and N58 billion were allocated respectively for empowerment provisions. How do politicians come to determine the empowerment needs of their constituents without need assessment nor inclusion in the decision-making process? How do they decide the beneficiaries?” he queried.
In the 2019 budget, Tracka discovered under the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) that N1.5 billion was allocated for provision of ICT, Mathematics, and English language textbooks for JSS1-3 by MMP to selected secondary schools. We note with dismay that these projects bear no details of the states, local governments and senatorial districts of beneficiaries, same as there is zero specifications of where the projects will be domiciled. In total, projects with unspecified locations (in the 2019 budget) account for more than N5.8 billion out of N100 billion total .
“The failure to provide these locations is antithetical to democracy because it deprives communities, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and auditing bodies the opportunity to monitor and ensure proper implementation of the government’s obligations to the people,” Uadamen added.
Moreso, Tracka found that over 650 projects are budgeted under agencies that do not have the mandate to execute them. For instance, some empowerment projects are packaged under agencies of the presidency which we believe are either priority misplacement or even channels for embezzlement. Such projects include the “Supply of motorcycles, grinding machines and sewing machines for distribution in 11 federal constituencies of Bauchi State” for N330 million by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Office of the Presidency. We are seeing a pattern where citizens are handpicked and constituency projects are used for political purposes
Tracka calls, again, on elected representatives to properly engage their constituents in the budget-making process. As the fundamental purpose of constituency projects, this is the ultimate way to ensure that the core needs of the citizens are in a timely fashion captured in the annual fiscal plan, as rural communities also feel the impact of the federal government.