Capital allocations: N1.52trn projects in 2023 budget suspicious, inserted or out of MDAs’ mandates – ICPC

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BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

Majority of the constituency projects budgeted for in the 2023 Appropriation Bill did not see the light of the day, a report by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission has revealed.

According to discoveries made by the ICPC in its Budget Analysis and Tracking of Federal Government Funded Projects, “both soft projects and empowerment projects were found to be a major conduit for syphoning public resources and money laundering.”

Speaking at a media parley in commemoration of 2023 International Anti-Corruption Day which holds every December 9, the Commissioner of ICPC in Osun State, Demola Bakare said, “In the 2023 budget, N1.52 trillion worth of projects representing 28.4% of capital allocations across 150 agencies are adjudged suspicious, inserted or out of MDAs’ mandates.”

The Point gathered, in the Commissioner’s presentations, that some National Assembly members, especially those in the 9th parliament, colluded with heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, pocketed multi-million naira seed money meant for their constituents, and also hoarded and refused to distribute some empowerment items that had already been purchased for the constituents.

Bakare, who did not give the names of the legislators involved in these acts, disclosed that some of the lawmakers hoarded the empowerment items, equipment meant for public hospitals and others in order to roll them out during campaign period for elections.

Giving a breakdown of its budget tracking findings, the ICPC boss stated, “As part of its fraud prevention activities, the Commission undertakes yearly in-depth analysis and unpacking of the national budget, with a view to identifying budget padding, budget duplications, out of-mandate projects, suspicious provisions and other forms of abuses in budget administration.

“Analysis of the 2023 National Capital Budget has indeed been revealing. In the 2023 budget, N1.52 trillion worth of projects representing 28.4% of capital allocations across 150 agencies are adjudged suspicious, inserted or out of MDAs’ mandates.

“A total of 1,202 projects amounting to N353.29 billion representing 6.60% of capital allocation were considered suspicious projects.

“The phase 5 of the Commission’s tracking initiative carried out from November 2022, popularly known as Constituency Projects, focused on Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP). Out of the 703 projects tracked nationally, South-West had 115 projects (amounting to N30.9bn). Osun State office tracked 28 of the projects worth N851,613,219.48.

“Five contractors, 18 companies were asked to return to sites for projects valued at N403,895,416.39.”

“In 2023, out of 443 projects tracked nationwide (amounting to N58bn), a total of 95 capital projects amounting to N10.8bn were allocated to South-West. So, in the 6th Phase of the 2023 Executive Constituency Project Tracking held in Ekiti State, over 85 projects worth N8.028 billion were tracked by Osun State office of the Commission,” he added.

Presenting the highlights of some findings from Phase 5 of the Commission’s project tracking initiatives, Bakare said, “Soft projects and empowerment projects were found to be a major conduit for syphoning public resources and money laundering.

“Hoarding and Non-Distribution of Empowerment Items: As a campaign strategy, a larger percentage of empowerment items procured under the 2020 and 2021 Appropriation for instance were found stashed away in warehouse or private properties of the projects sponsors.

“Monetary Grant Projects: Vessels for Syphoning Public Funds: Grants as projects are ordinarily a means of financial empowerment where beneficiaries are given certain amount of money free as seed money for the establishment of, or improvement of existing businesses; they hardly get to the right people but fictitious or re-cycled persons that may not even be traceable; far less amount get paid to them such as N10,000 or N20,000 instead of N100,000. In one case, a grant project was distributed to only 10 people with each receiving N10million-N15million.

“Project Abandonment/Refusal to Execute Contracts: Though no longer rampant as discovered in previous tracking exercises, some contractors were still found to have collected funds for projects awarded to them but refused to execute and absconded with the money.

“Overpayment of Contract Sums: We found this absurd and unbelievable cases in some projects executed.

“Disparity in Project Distribution: Studies and analysis of national budgets have exposed a glaring lopsidedness in projects distribution across states. Underperformance in the Execution of Projects were encountered in numerous instances.

“Some Sponsors Alleged to Collect oney Upfront from would-be Contractors: Intelligence at the disposal of the commission has established that some projects sponsors are in the habit of negotiating and receiving bribes from would-be contractors promising to tweak the system to ensure the award of the contracts to the latter on projects sponsored by the former.”

He said among actions taken so far by the commission included the detainment of about 50 affected legislators, contractors, consultants and staff of the executing agencies. Bakare added that charges had been filed against them in court, adding that over 200 bank accounts of the suspects had been frozen.