The Senate has begun moves to strip federal ministries and agencies, powers to determine the funding, implementation, and management of constituency projects that were initiated by Federal lawmakers and accommodated in the nation’s yearly budget.
Against this backdrop, the Senate has introduced a new bill that prescribes a five-year jail term for anyone who misappropriates constituency development fund, without an option of fine.
The new bill titled, ” Constituency Development Fund Bill, 2019″ is sponsored on Tuesday by the former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, All Progressives Congress, APC, Borno South and was read the first time at the Hallowed Chamber.
According to Ndume, the Bill is among others, aimed at stopping similar situations in subsequent fiscal years.
Offences and penalties of the new bill read: “Any person who misappropriates any funds or assets from the fund, or assists or causes any person to misappropriate or apply the funds otherwise than in the manner provided in this Act, shall be guilty of an offence and shall, upon conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than five years without an option of fine.”
Provisions in the act are complimentary and reads, “The provisions of this Act shall be complementary to any other development efforts by the Federal Government, the State Governments or any other agency and nothing in this Act shall be taken or interpreted to mean that an area may be excluded from any other development programmes of any level of government.
”For the avoidance of doubt, normal government development allocations shall continue alongside the projects funded under this Act.”
The new Bill seeks the establishment of a dedicated fund, which would be 2.5 per cent of the nation’s annual budget, to be managed solely by the Rural Development Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
According to a copy of the bill obtained, it also seeks to introduce a regime that would streamline the management and implementation of constituencies development fund in the country.
The new legislation seeks to entrust the execution of such projects in the hands of the Rural Development Department of the proposed agency, unlike the current practice where MDAs are fully in charge.
According to the bill, decisions on the projects to be implemented would remain with the various constituencies through the Constituency Development Project Advisory Committees set up for each federal constituency and senatorial district.
Recall that the current practice encourages the capturing of projects lawmakers wish to be executed in their various constituencies, in the budget while the MDAs determine the contract award and execution.
This development had however led to cases of abandoned and poorly executed projects due to non-release or poor funding by the executive arm of government.
It was also gathered that President Muhammadu Buhari had yet to release any amount from the N100bn allocated for constituency projects funding in the 2019 budget.
Section 4.-(1) of the proposed legislation reads, “There is established a Fund to be known as the Constituencies Development Fund which shall: be a national Fund consisting of an amount of not less than 2.5 % (two and a half per centum) of all the Federal Government ordinary budget in every financial year
“Comprise of any sums of money accruing to or received by the Department from any other source;
“Disbursed by the Federal Government to the Department for even development and provision of rural infrastructure in the manner provided by this Act;
“Administered by the Department of Rural Development in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development:
“Provided that l. 5 % (one and a half per centum) and 1 % (one per centum) of the total revenue accruing to the Department under this Act shall be allocated for developmental projects at all Federal Constituencies and Senatorial Districts in the Federation respectively.”