Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate has introduced a new bill that would strip Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, powers to determine the funding, implementation, and management of constituency projects initiated by federal lawmakers.
A former Leader of the Senate, Ali Ndume, sponsored the “Constituency Development Fund Bill, 2019”.
The new bill has also proposed a five-year jail term for senators, members of the House of Representatives and others who will be found culpable in the misappropriation of the allocated funds.
The bill equally seeks the establishment of a dedicated fund, which would be 2.5 percent of the nation’s annual budget, to be managed solely by the Rural Development Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Part of the proposed Bill which passed first reading on the floor of the house last week, prescribes that “Any person who misappropriates any funds or assets from the fund, or assists or causes any person to misappropriate or apply the funds otherwise than in the manner provided in this Act, shall be guilty of an offence and shall, upon conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than five years without an option of fine.”
The bill, according to a copy, obtained at the weekend, seeks to introduce a regime that would streamline the management and implementation of constituencies’ development fund in the country.
Unlike the current practice where agencies are fully in charge, the new legislation seeks to entrust the execution of such projects in the hands of the Rural Development Department of the proposed agency.
The decisions on the projects to be implemented, according to the bill, would remain with the various constituencies through the Constituency Development Project Advisory Committees set up for each federal constituency and senatorial district.
Section 4.(1) of the proposed legislation reads, “There is established a Fund to be known as the Constituencies Development Fund which shall: (a) be a national Fund consisting of money of an amount of not less than 2.5 % (two and a half per centum) of all the Federal Government ordinary budget in every financial year.
“(b) Comprise of any moneys accruing to or received by the Department from any other source.
(c) Disbursed by the Federal Government to the Department for even development and provision of rural infrastructure in the manner provided by this Act.
(d) Administered by the Department of Rural Development in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“Provided that l. 5 % (one and a half per centum) and 1 % (one per centum) of the total revenue accruing to the Department under this Act shall be allocated for developmental projects at all Federal Constituencies and Senatorial Districts in the Federation respectively.”