Distilling the data for Abuja constituency projects

OrderPaperToday – On the 3rd of March, OrderPaper Nigeria celebrated Open Data Day 2018 with a Town Hall meeting in Abuja. The meeting attracted participants from the various area councils within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nigeria.

Open Data Day is an annual celebration of open data all over the world, an opportunity to show the benefits of open data and encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business and civil society. The focus this year was on 4 key areas namely; Open Research Data, Tracking Public Money Flows, Open Mapping and Data for Equal Development.

At the Town Hall Meeting, OrderPaper Nigeria’s Editor, Ms. Asari Ndem, explained that, “for the 8th consecutive year, people are gathering to build new solutions to issues in our community using open data. Open Data Day (ODD) is a bottom-up initiative coordinated by the open data community and, since the first edition, things have changed from small hack-a-thons within a few dozen cities to hundreds worldwide. It is an opportunity to bring all the stakeholders in open data together to discuss, inform and build together.”

The Town Hall meeting, which took place at Alliance Français Abuja, was aimed at tracking funds for Constituency Projects as captured in the 2016 approved Budget of the country. Figures relating to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, were the focus of attention.

The meeting focused on interrogating Constituency Projects using technology as participants were taught how to access and use information on appropriated figures, actual level of funding and scale of implementation of the projects.

In his opening remarks, the Executive Director of OrderPaper Nigeria, Oke Epia, noted that the organization is committed to tracking public funds allocated for Constituency Projects through the use of the ConsTrack Mobile App.

While elaborating the use of the ConsTrack platform he said: “It is a non-partisan citizen project, it is not about parties – APC or PDP – it is for everyone.”

Other speakers at the event included Barrister Chimaroke Ndugbu, Director, Legislative of OrderPaper NG, who spoke on the Freedom of Information Act. A participant of the Town Hall Meeting who resides in Kubwa, FCT, asked to know how he could get information on the bill of quantity on a project in his area, and he was advised by Mr. Ndugbu to seek such information from the Federal capital Development Authority (FCDA). Mr. Ndugbu noted that the agency are mandated to reply within seven days or redirect his request to the appropriate quarters, to which he must be notified of such re-direction within three days.

Mr. Laz Apir spoke on the state of Constituency Projects across the FCT, revealing that a Senator and two members of the House of Representatives were allocated N2.62 billion in 2016 to spend on such projects.

Apir urged citizens to demand to know how these monies have been spent, saying: “Their work is to develop Nigeria to be like Dubai. You can write a letter to the lawmaker with just your name and demand to know more about the constituency projects.”

Mr. Tony-Okeke Ofordile, the Head of Operations at OrderPaper Nigeria, anchored the session on “interrogating Constituency Projects using technology” and described the ConsTrack app as a “meeting point for everyone.”

He noted: “In the 21st century, data is king not oil, data promotes openness and ConsTrack is a meeting point for everyone; lawmakers and citizens alike. ConsTrack will promote transparency and accountability.”

Mr. Ofordile then gave a breakdown of the app, which features a search page, individual project pages, a feedback page and more tools to aid in the process of tracking the progress of Constituency Projects.

The participants thanked OrderPaper Nigeria for the initiative while lamenting poor implementation of Constituency Projects in some parts of the FCT.

According to a participant from Bwari Area Council: “ConsTrack is a hope and relief to us in Bwari.”

At the end of the meeting, the participants were empowered to become FollowtheFunds Grassroots Champions (FGCs) who would undertake broader and more thorough Constituency Projects tracking, monitoring and reporting through the use of the ConsTrack app in the FCT.

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