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Corruption: ICPC Launches Phase Five of Project Tracking in MDAs, N’Assembly in 20 States
*Set to auction assets forfeited to FG
*Discovered N7.1bn padded projects in phase four, forced contractors to complete N10bn projects
*To track 712 government projects
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said at the weekend that it would commence phase five of tracking of projects in Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and the National Assembly.
The exercise known as constituency and executive projects tracking exercise followed the successful completion of the fourth phase earlier in the year.
The anti-graft agency also said it commenced the process of auctioning assets forfeited to the federal government in line with the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act (POCA), signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 12, 2022, with a bid opening to select auctioneers.
It said, in a statement, that the 5th phase of the executive and constituency tracking projects, involving 712 government-funded projects, would commence on November 8th in 20 states cutting across the six geopolitical zones.
The states are Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Katsina, Kwara, Niger, Kogi, Cross River, Delta, Rivers, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Borno, Bauchi, and Gombe States.
It noted that in line with other tracking exercises carried out by ICPC since 2019, the objective of the phase five was to investigate fraudulent procurement practices in the award of contracts for the selected projects across the country.
“It aims to ensure that all government funded projects are executed fully to their specifications and to make recoveries where the project costs are inflated by contractors or are poorly executed,” it said.
The statement said the commission had in the 4th phase of the exercise, successfully tracked 538 projects across nine focal areas of health, education, power, water resources, works, housing, agriculture, transport, and environment.
The exercise was conducted in 19 states across the six geopolitical zones and the FCT including Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Enugu, Ebonyi, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Edo, Delta, Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue, Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba, Borno and FCT.
“Some of the findings from the Phase four exercise include discovery of N7.1 billion worth of padded projects, some contractors who had abandoned project sites being compelled to return to different sites to complete N10.9 billion worth of projects, while N6.8 billion worth of recoveries (cash and assets) have been made so far.
“Also, 109 out of the 543 selected projects in phase four, amounting to N1,176,867,800 were found to have been inserted, which effectively turned them into zonal intervention projects. Intelligence revealed that the insertions were done by both legislators and some members of the executive arm of the government in the budget-making process,” it said.
“Though phase four was intended to focus solely on executive projects, it however became another exercise in constituency projects tracking because of the quantum of budget padding found amongst the selected projects”, it said.
The statement affirmed that phase five of the exercise would be carried out by ICPC in collaboration with relevant stakeholders such as Budget Office of the Federation, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, Bureau of Public Procurement, Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, the Media and Civil Society Organisations that constitute the steering committee.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft agency also said it has commenced the process of auctioning assets forfeited to the federal government in line with the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act (POCA), signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 12, 2022, with a bid opening to select auctioneers.
Speaking in Abuja, the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye hailed the impact of the bill on the anti-corruption war and described it as a tool which brought clarity and purpose to the previously murky waters of asset recovery and management.
He stated that the unregulated structure surrounding forfeited assets often led to huge revenue loses which ultimately defeated the purpose of recovery.
Owasanoye, who was represented by a board member of the commission, Dr. Louis Mandama, stated that the Proceeds of Crime Act introduced a standardised procedure for management and disposal of forfeited assets, helped set up a governing directorate and ensured that all processes were deliberated on and executed by professionals who were experts in relevant fields.
This, he said, promoted transparency and prioritised corruption prevention.
The ICPC boss also highlighted the fact that each agency that recovers assets was responsible for the disposal of the forfeited assets and the process was tamper-proof as it instructs that all proceeds be lodged in a dedicated account, domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria and accessible only at the discretion of the National Assembly and the President.
“Whatever is gotten at the end of this exercise, there is a dedicated account under the watchful eyes of the Central Bank of Nigeria in place already. Nobody has the powers to transfer or move anything out of that account only the National Assembly and the president,” he said.
Speaking further on the bill, the ICPC boss revealed that ICPC had an asset recovery and management manual which provided the guidelines to ensure all processes are governed and controlled.
He also pointed out that the commission had, in line with the POCA, set up a committee which comprised of board members, directors, representatives of labour, civil society organisations, media and Bureau of Public Procurement to administer the bid process.
He expressed delight that the commission was amongst the first to carry out an auction based on the POCA and suggested that the success of the process would ultimately encourage other agencies to follow suit.
The statement said the bid opening process began with the opening and counting of submitted bids based on the lots which had been publicly advertised and were subject to stringent term and conditions.
“There were two lots available with 58 and 54 bids respectively. Each box was meticulously processed with records being taken for accepted, returned and withdrawn bids,” it said.
The opening of technical bids was attended by ICPC board members, Dr. Grace Chinda and Senator Anthony Agbo, directors of the commission, staff of relevant departments, bidders and external observers from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and a civil society organisation.