The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) is set to commence Phase 5 of the Constituency and Executive Projects Tracking Exercise.
The commencement of Phase 5 follows the successful completion of the 4th phase earlier in the year.
The 5th phase, involving 712 government-funded projects, will commence on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, in 20 states cutting across the 6 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.
As with other tracking exercises carried out by ICPC since the kick-off in 2019, the objective of Phase 5 is to investigate fraudulent procurement practices in awarding contracts for 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.
The Commission, had in the 4th Phase of the exercise, successfully tracked 538 projects across 9 focal areas of Health, Education, Power, Water Resources, Works, Housing, Agriculture, Transport, and Environment.
The exercise was conducted in 19 states across the 6 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 4 exercise include the 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 naira 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 4, 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 legislators and some members of the Executive arm of the government in the budget-making process.
Though Phase 4 was intended to focus solely on Executive projects, it became another exercise in Constituency Project tracking because of the quantum of budget padding found amongst the selected projects.
Phase 5 of the exercise will be carried out by ICPC in collaboration with relevant stakeholders such as the 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 Organizations that constitute the steering committee.
Meanwhile, the Commission has commenced the process of disposal of 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 the 12th of May, 2022, with a bid opening to select auctioneers.
Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, the Chairman of ICPCP who was represented by a Board Member of the Commission, Dr Louis Mandama, hailed the bill’s impact 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.
According to the Chairman, the unregulated structure surrounding forfeited assets often led to huge revenue losses, ultimately defeating the purpose of recovery. He further stated that the Proceeds of Crime Act introduced a standardized procedure for the management and disposal of forfeited assets, helped set up a governing directorate, and ensured that all processes were deliberated on and executed by experts in relevant fields.
This, he said, promotes transparency and prioritizes corruption prevention.
The ICPC boss also highlighted that each agency that recovers assets was responsible for the disposal of the forfeited assets.
He noted that 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, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“whatever is gotten at the end of this exercise, there is already a dedicated account under the watchful eyes of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Nobody has the powers to transfer or move anything from that account, only the National Assembly and the President,” he said.
Still speaking on the bill, the ICPC boss revealed that ICPC has an Asset Recovery and Management manual which provides 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 comprised of board members, directors, representatives of labour, civil society organisations, media and the Bureau of Public Procurement to administer the bid process.
He expressed delight that the Commission is 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 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 terms 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.