Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) who pay for constituency projects without clearance from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, face being invited by Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and being imposed with heavy sanctions, so says Acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Dr. Habiba Lawal.
Lawal gave the warning at the opening of the Stakeholders’ Interactive Forum on the Implementation of Zonal Intervention/Constituency Projects, in Abuja, on Thursday.
The stakeholders’ meeting was aimed at enhancing working relationship with partners in the implementation of the Zonal Intervention/Constituency Projects and Programmes.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Special Duties Office (OSGF), William Alo, she warned that no MDAs should pay out money on constituency project except it gets clearance from office of the SGF.
“This is tax payers money that must be accounted for. A team from the office of SGF will visit the project and carry out due diligence and ensure it was done according to specifications before payment will be authorised.
“If you pay without clearance is embezzlement and is corruption. This is government policy we are duty bound to adhere to it.
“Henceforth projects must have impact on the lives of the people. That is the bottom line of this stakeholders forum”, she said.
Lawal said President Muhammadu Buhari was particularly interested in the timely and effective execution of these projects which are in line with his administration Change Agenda, hence the resolve to verify, monitor and evaluate all hear projects in order to ensure optimal value for money.
The Acting SGF observed that “the intervention by the Executive to situate the supervision of the Constituency projects in the OSGF is aimed at ensuring that these projects are not abandoned even when members of the National Assembly facilitating them leave office.
“The Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) are responsible for the actual implementation of these projects while the OSGF will monitor, evaluate, verify implementation and authorise payment at various stages of execution. Therefore, payments for constructs under the Zonal Intervention/Constituency projects will be made based on satisfactory performance in order to ensure value for money.
“Furthermore, contractors handling Zonal Intervention/Constituency projects shall only be paid upon authorisation by the OSGF.”
Lawal added that the essence of the meeting was to ensure accountability and transparency.
In his remarks, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Constituency Outreach, Lawal Abubakar, stressed that constituency projects are meant to alleviate poverty and execute projects in communities usually overlooked in budgetary allocations.
According to him, the primary function of the legislature is to make lawyers, noting that no matter how vibrant a lawmaker in the National Assembly, it is meaningless to the constituents if their representatives do not facilitate the execution of projects in their communities.
“We do not understand the struggle between the executive and legislature on whose responsibility it is to carry out the constitutional projects as long as the people will be the beneficiary at the end of the day.
“The legislature and executive must work together if the welfare of the people are to be met. If they work at cross purposes the interest of the people will be seriously endangered.”
On his part, Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, also noted that it is within the purview of the legislature to bring out projects that would be beneficial to their constituencies that must have escaped those at the national level during budgetary appropriation.
He frowned at a situation where money appropriated for project does not reflect the actual cost of the project as well as non-release of funds for projects.
Abubakar advised that a mechanism for successful completion of projects must be put in place even after the initiator has left the scene.