OrderPaperToday – As the executive and the legislature trade words over the efficacy of constituency projects, the Executive Director of OrderPaper, Mr Oke Epia, has called for a review of its founding structures.
Speaking when he appeared on ‘People, Politics and Power’, a widely viewed analytical programme aired on Africa Independent Television (AIT) on Monday, Epia argued that a review of constituency projects is long overdue as nothing has been done to correct loopholes in the initiative since its introduction in 2010.
“Within the space of 10 years, we should have looked at what has worked and what has not worked and decide if we need this thing to continue,” he said.
He also charged Nigerians to take ownership of the process by being actively involved in the nomination and implementation tracking of constituency projects.
This, according to him, will foster transparency, accountability and inclusiveness.
Epia said: “When I talk about tracking, I think we should allow citizens own this thing. It is okay for anti-corruption agencies to do their bids or have collaborations with with CSOs, but it is actually important that citizens who are meant to feel the impact, rise and report on it”.
He explained that it was in recognition of the need for citizens “to own the process” that ConsTrack app was initiated by OrderPaper Nigeria to give citizens the platform to be involved in the process.
“That’s what the ConsTrack app does. It gives citizens the ability to directly go on the app and say ‘from what I see here, this project has failed, this project is ongoing, thumbs up or thumbs down to whoever is responsible for this’.
“We need to have that level of inclusiveness in budgetary process as far as constituency projects are concerned and if we do not have that, these conversations will happen again and again”, he said.
ConsTrack, a user friendly mobile application and innovative tool introduced in 2017, is available for download on both Google Play Store and Apple Store respectively.
It is designed for citizens to engage elected representatives on constituency projects across the country.
The ED of OrderPaper Nigeria also urged the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to verify its data before making it public.
His advice came against the backdrop of a recent statement made by President Muhammadu Buhari, who relied on a report by ICPC, lamenting that N1 trillion has been disbursed for the constituency projects within 10 years and there are little or no results.
“Without antagonising the ICPC, It is very important to be sure that your facts are carefully validated before they become public. Before deploying the ConsTrack app, we made sure one of the hallmarks of the app is to be sure that all of the information embedded have been carefully validated with all the stakeholders concerned.
“We had meetings and sessions around the 2016 Appropriations Act. We met with the MDAs, Bureau of Public Procurement, including visits to standing committees in the National Assembly on Appropriations and Constituency Development, the principal officers and the current Senate President who was then the Senate leader,” he said.
“There has to be some form of interaction. It was through such meetings we realised that it was only 80% that was released for the execution of the projects and that is what you will find in the ConsTrack app. You will find the sum of money allocated, the monies released, details about the contractor etc. We put all these information out there for citizens to objectively make up their minds.
“But if you don’t have the full information and you take a side and go public, you run the risk of demonising certain actors involved in the entire constituency project scheme,” he added.
Finally, Epia called for a reform of budgetary process and creation of laws to back the implementation of these projects owing to discrepancies and controversies around it.
He said, “We need to reform the budgetary process. We do not need to continue having budgets that do not have information vital for citizens to make adequate information and judgement whether budgets are implemented.”