By Jodi Vivienne
OrderPaperToday– Like every other legislative house, the National Assembly has had a fair share of controversy but one that constantly makes an appearance is the issue of corruption in the handling of constituency projects funds.
Constituency projects, also known as zonal intervention projects, are projects nominated by lawmakers to be implemented in their constituencies by the federal government, which are captured in the annual national budget.
While members of the National Assembly nominate these projects, it is the executive that is mandated by law to implement them in entirety.
However, this has been a major issue among lawmakers and members of their individual constituencies and of recent, between the federal government and the legislature.
Need for accountability in ZIPs implementation
In November 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted saying at the National Summit on diminishing corruption in public sector organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, in conjunction with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, that, “there is little to show for over one trillion (1,000,000,000,000) naira budgeted for constituency projects by the National Assembly in the last 10 years.”
The concept of constituency projects is one that has suffered through a series of misinterpretation regarding its functions and operation. The tendency for the programme to be abused for personal gain has led many to see it as a tool of enrichment rather than one for which an even spread of development can be achieved across the country.
There is also the issue of poor monitoring of the implementation of such projects, leading to a lack of accountability in the application of funds and abandoned projects in various localities across the country.
As a measure to address these challenges and make citizens to own the process, which rightfully is theirs and about them, a mobile tracking app known as ‘ConsTrack’ was designed and made accessible to all Nigerians.
ConsTrack as a tech tool for checking fraud in constituency projects
ConsTrack enables citizens engage, interact, ask questions and receive answers on constituency projects; it also enables lawmakers track projects they have achieved, those they are yet to, gives accolades to lawmakers who have been working, and calls out those lawmakers who are yet to do anything, whilst interacting with the citizens who voted them into power.
The ConsTrack mobile app was created by OrderPaper, a Nigerian interface that helps to bridge the gap between the citizens and the parliament.
ConsTrack mobile app, a tech tool for development innovation that won a global award from Chemonics International, was launched in 2016 to track the implementation of constituency projects across Nigeria.
It was developed after a year-long process of thorough interrogation of the project in the country, as a means to intervene in the corruption bedeviling its success and to address the lack of accountability that came alongside the implementation of constituency projects.
Furthermore, the ConsTrack mobile app came into being to also create awareness to citizens from various constituencies; to provide undiluted and specific information to every citizen of Nigeria, as long as they have a representative in the National Assembly.
The app provides information in a user-friendly manner on specific constituency projects for every federal constituency; the figures of money budgeted and the amount of money released (which differs sometimes); the ministries, departments and agencies involved and the contractors involved in implementing the project.
It also gives an insight of which lawmakers nominated the projects are and clearly defines their roles in the projects.
An instance of how the ConsTrack App helped in ensuring accountability is a case where a lawmaker claimed to build a dam in Kuje, the money for the project was released to the contractors, but on getting to the construction site, the dam was nowhere to be found and it became a national issue. After it was established that the funds were diverted, the voters were more informed about the character of their representative and chose to elect someone else to represent them at the National Assembly.
Constituency projects bring people closer to benefiting from the dividends of democracy because lawmakers influence constituency projects to bring much needed development to the rural areas which are not usually captured by the bureaucrats in the executive arm of government.
This means, therefore, that Constituency Projects should be supported to thrive. The verdict of the ongoing discourse whether it should be scrapped or sustained should be the latter, but with reforms.
Nigerians are more informed now of their rights and expectation of their elected officials, they want to be more involved in how their taxes are spent, how the commonwealth is distributed and herein lies the success of the app so far.
All of these information and more are now on the fingertips of citizens because of the app. All data found on this mobile app have been thoroughly interrogated, investigated and based on the cardinal objective of ConsTrack, which is the promotion of inclusiveness, transparency and accountability in the implementation of constituency projects.
Little wonder the Federal Government has showered encomiums on OrderPaper for the ConsTrack innovation in advancing transparency and accountability in public projects implementation in the country.
The ConsTrack app is available for download for free on Google Play Store (for android users) or the Apple iOS store.