ICPC-Operatives

Juliana Francis

Soft projects and empowerment projects are major conduits for syphoning public resources and money laundering, said the Independent Corrupt Practice and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), on Monday 29th, April in Ikeja, Lagos State.

The statement was made by the Deputy Director/Head, of Constituency and Executive Project Tracking Initiative (CEPTI), Mr Jimoh Sulaimon, while reviewing and sharing the Report Of Constituency And Executive Projects Tracking Exercise-Phase5.

This was even as the Chairman, ICPC, Dr. Musa Adamu Aliyu, SAN, said that the Constituency and Executive Projects Tracking Group (CEPTG) in the Commission, has tracked “a total of N219,843,922,945.48 across 176 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) since its inception in 2019.”

He stated that this tracking exercise focused on critical sectors like education, agriculture, healthcare, and infrastructure, spanning 26 states and the FCT across all six Geo-political Zones.

Sulaimon said: “Large scale soft, fluid projects and Empowerment projects as a major conduit for syphoning public resources. Empowerment and soft projects deserve special attention in this report given their increasing propensity within the budget as more project sponsors now prefer to embed such projects for execution in the budget.

“The aggregate number of empowerment projects tracked amounts to 449 -26.1% of the total tracked projects-, while the aggregate sum, value of contract award on empowerment projects is N35,585,340,728.91. In all the issues discovered in the course of tracking empowerment projects, the contractors, the project facilitators as well as the executing agencies staff cannot be excused of gross connivance.”

ICPC further explained that due to the increasing propensity of soft and intangible projects being abused and used as vehicles for the misappropriation of public funds, Phase5 involved an increased interest in projects such as empowerment, training, grants and others, because of their fluid nature and susceptibility to corruption, there has lately been an increasing number of soft projects being embedded in the budgets by project sponsors as they are more difficult to effectively track post-execution.

It states: “The Commission, therefore, increased its surveillance on such projects with an aggregate of 331 selected soft projects -47 per cent of the all projects tracked-, with a contract value of N9,222,367,241.54.

“Consequently, there was hardly any of such projects tracked on which recoveries and or confiscation was not made as the projects were not executed in line with the Bills of Quantities.

“Beneficiaries were heavily underserved whilst the funds were misappropriated. In training projects, for instance, training exercises designed to be conducted over one or two weeks were conducted in just a day and all funds assigned to all activities for the remaining six or 13 days, were diverted.”

Aliyu the ICPC was not just an enforcement agency, but a “change agent” driving an open, ethical, and accountable Nigeria.

He explained that since taking office in December 2023, he has prioritized strengthening anti-corruption prevention at the ICPC through strategic collaboration.

He added: “This collaborative approach has yielded significant progress. This effort has led to the initiation, renewal, and establishment of numerous mutually beneficial partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders such as the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) and Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU). Other partners include government agencies, civil society organizations, professional associations, and bilateral bodies. Some notable examples include the Ministry of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Ministry of Interior among others.”

He also noted that the Commission was actively pursuing technological solutions to enhance transparency and accountability.

He mentioned that the Commission’s anti-corruption strategy goes beyond collaboration.

“It also strengthens law enforcement, investigations, and prosecutions and tackles vulnerabilities in government systems. Public education and mobilization are key to our approach. This multi-pronged strategy aims for a more sustainable and legal fight against corruption in Nigeria,” said Aliyu.

Speaking further on constituency and executive projects tracking, Aliyu said: “ Constituency and Executive Project Tracking Initiative (CEPTI) was conceived in April 2019 by the ICPC as a preventive, intervention measure to tackle corruption and to, among others, engender good governance, transparency, and accountability within the body polity, focusing on how well monies allocated to critical sectors by the government are utilized.

“The initiative was launched to track constituency project implementation and performance in 2015.  A Steering Committee was set up to select projects for tracking in each of the Phases or tracking cycles.

“The Steering Committee comprises the Commission, Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, Budget Office of the Federation, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, Premium Times, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), Bureau for Public Procurement and BudgIT.

“The ICPC project tracking team combines investigators with technical experts. Quantity surveyors assess project quality, cost, and potential inflation. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) monitor transparency and provide community feedback. Media coverage raises public awareness and fosters beneficiary participation, ensuring the initiative’s success.”

He stressed that the Constituency and Executive Projects Tracking Group (CEPTG) was a powerful tool against corruption in government projects.

“This initiative tackles corruption at every stage, from investigating shady procurement to recovering stolen funds. They monitor project progress, ensure contractors deliver, and even analyze budgets to identify red flags. With successful recoveries and prosecutions under their belt, the CEPTG is working to ensure government projects translate into real benefits for Nigerians,” he said.

He stated: “Having conducted a thorough investigation on some infractions identified on funded projects, the Commission has instituted cases against some suspects.

This initiative ensures government funds are directed towards impactful projects that benefit the most vulnerable Nigerians.

“The Phase 6 exercise which commenced in November 2023 through 1st quarter of 2024 covers the Health, Agriculture, Education, Water Resources, and Power sectors in 26 states and the FCT is still ongoing. The final report of the exercise will be published and be made public.”

Aliyu pointed out the highlights of the findings from the Phase 6 Tracking Exercise, “ A total of 1,721 government-funded projects were tracked within the Phase 6 tracking cycle. The Commission is conducting further investigations on some infractions discovered. These are, performed projects, Shoddily executed projects, Abandoned projects, Certification of projects as completed when such projects have not been completed and hoarding of projects such as empowerment projects meant to be distributed to intended beneficiaries to empower them or serve to alleviate their poverty were hoarded, while some other items were distributed through proxies.

“It was observed that some agencies were in the habit of handing over empowerment items to stakeholders for onward distribution to the intended beneficiaries. This practice encouraged hoarding and politicization of the empowerment sharing processes.”

He noted that to stem the tide of empowerment items being converted to personal use or for personal aggrandisement and to engender value for money on government funds as well as for impactful socio-economic development of the citizenry, relevant MDAs have been mandated to invite ICPC to monitor the distribution of empowerment items on their budget.

He also mentioned that the ICPC, collaborating with other agencies, conducted a corruption risk assessment of key Nigerian seaports.

This assessment, said Aliyu, identified vulnerabilities and led to the development of measures to improve transparency and accountability.

He said that an enforcement team- Ports Standing Task Team -PSTT- was established to ensure adherence to these measures. Their efforts resulted in 50 arrests in 2023 related to 19 investigations, Legal proceedings initiated, including asset forfeiture,  Improved port efficiency and streamlined operations, especially at Apapa and Tin-Can ports and the Dismantling of corruption networks causing traffic congestion.

 

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