CONSTITUENCY, PUBLIC PROJECTS; STATUS QUO CHANGING IN EDO STATE AS CITIZENS, STAKEHOLDERS SUSTAIN SEARCHLIGHT ON PUBLIC STEWARDSHIP.
Probity and accountability were again brought to the fore in the south-south State of Edo as citizens, civic groups and public thrust-holders in the State converged at a Town Hall meeting on “Promoting Accountable Governance Through Tracking Of Constituency and Public Projects Implementation”, powered by the Alone, SDIC (Alone), with support from MacArthur Foundation.
The Intervention was coming on the heels of growing mass discontent over perceived non-performance and graft around constituency projects allocations and similar projects of public nature.
Giving an appraisal of contract awards and projects implementation in the State, the state’s Bureau of Public Procurement, represented by Mr. Henry ImogienheIdogun disclosed that a database of contractors in the State has been created putting their figure at nine hundred and ninety-nine. He stated that the Agency was leveraging on information and technology (IT), to usher in best practices in contract awards and execution in Edo State. According to him, in addition to the comprehensive database of State contractors which now enables government track its contracts, projects and contractors realtime, it has also established a website where it publishes all contract awards in the State for the public to access while also building an online Application for tracking and monitoring projects in the State.
The State’s Bureau of Public Procurement disclosed that both the project-tracking App and State’s contracts website otherwise known as “Edo Monitor Portal”, were the first of its kind by any State in Nigeria and sets Edo apart in transparency and accountability in the Country. The Bureau further by means of the App and Portal, citizens can, and were encouraged to monitor public projects and report feedback onto the App/Portal, request and get response(s) on the reports made. It said the idea was to ensure that the purpose and objective of expending public resources was met as targeted and assured that the Agency will continue to discharge its regulatory duties to the highest standards, adding that it will summarily blacklist any contractor found engaging in sharp practice(s).
In his presentation on the Edo State Commissioner for the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Mr. Yusuf Olatunji explained that the commission has been working tirelessly to bring down as well as eliminate the trend of corruption in the Country, stating that Constituency Projects was one important area the Commission was working on. Mr. Yusuf Olatunji pointed out that investigations have reached advance stages in some identified Constituency Projects, with some recoveries having been made, including the recovery by the ICPC, of two fully equipped ambulance busses diverted and parked in a private home in Edo State, explaining that the Commission would be modest with releasing information around this and other similar cases in order not to jeopardize prosecution and court processes. He however lauded the Civil Societies in the State which the Commission said, have been effectively working with it and have provided it useful materials and information which the Commission said has been invaluable in the discharge of its tasks and urged the Civic Groups to sustain the tempo.
Earlier, while welcoming participants to the Town Hall Meeting, Programme Director of SDIC, Ms. Vivian Bellonwu-Okafor, praised the participants for the active interest they have shown towards ensuring better quality of lives of citizens of the State through good governance and effective public service delivery and charged all to bring more practical efforts to bear, to change the negative narrative which Edo State presently records in the area of Constituency and some public sector projects.
According to her “with the kind support of our able partner, the MacArthur Foundation, we have consciously put together this forum, bringing in key individuals (State and non-State domains), human resources and technologies, with Constrack and the ACONET Portal, to support and empower citizens particularly in Edo State, to track and monitor the process of their public and constituency projects implementation and to constantly engage relevant institutions such as the ICPC, the EFCC, Bureau of Public Procurement, key MDAs. This is towards ensuring impactful and accountable use of public funds appropriated for public good”.
In her remarks at the event, representative of the MacArthhur Foundation, Ms. Amina Salihu, stated that the Foundation has been working in Nigeria for the past twenty five years in a number of sectors that include Education, Health and Electricity, through their partners spread nation-wide.
Ms. Salihu pointed out that the Foundation cannot change Nigeria but that ultimately, only Nigerian can effectively change Nigeria into the kind of Country they want it to be, and enjoined all stakeholders present to rise to the occasion.
She bemoaned the level of Constituency projects execution in Edo State, which was put at less than ten 10 percent and reminded the people that it was their duty to see to that this short-change does not continue and commended the civic groups, citizens and the government officials in the State for their commitment to the quest for a better society for all.
The event which took place on September 17th in Benin, was attended by over two hundred participants drawn from Civil society groups, Communities, Ministries of Education and Health, the EFCC, ICPC, SUBEB, Office of the Chief of Staff to the Governor, BPP, the Edo State House of Assembly amongst others.