Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
In a move akin to taking the battle to executive arm of government, the House of Representatives, yesterday, set up a 16-man Ad-hoc Committee to probe Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) over unspent constituency projects.
The Ad-hoc Committee is expected to identify MDAs that failed to remit unspent constituency projects to the treasury in the last ten years and report back to the House within eight weeks for further legislative actions.
This followed the adoption of a motion sponsored by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and five others on the “need for refund of unspent budget funds.”
The members of the National Assembly had come under severe criticism after President Muhammadu Buhari said lawmakers had spent N1 trillion on constituency projects, also known as Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP), in the past ten years, without commensurate result.
However, the House said the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission ( ICPC), whose report Buhari based his comment, misled the president on the actual expenditure on constituency projects fund.
Chairman, Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, who led debate, said in the last 10 years, there was no instance where the budget was funded 100 per cent.
He argued that because there have not been 100 percent implementation of capital budgets, there was no way government could claim to have funded constituency projects 100 per cent.
He said it was imperative for the House to probe non-remittance of unspent ZIP funds by MDAs, noting that he was shocked when he heard that N1 trillion had been spent on constituency projects.
Fulata, who said releases for capital projects in the past ten years has hovered between 40 and 70 per cent, added that most of the times, funds released for constituency projects were not fully utilised by MDAs.”
In his contribution, Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Wole Oke expressed concern that MDAs have failed to realise that violation of the Appropriation Act carries stiff sanction.
“If MDAs reduce the value (of constituency projects), what do they do with it? They either misapply or warehouse it,” Oke said.
Similarly, the House passed for second reading a bill seeking to outlaw caretaker committees in the administration of local government areas in the country.
The proposed legislation entitled “a bill for an act to alter section 7 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)” is sponsored by Dachung Bagos.
It is also seeking to remove local government administration from the control of state governors.
Dagos, who represents Jos South/ Jos East Federal Constituency of Plateau State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in his lead debate, said the proposed legislation is aimed at instilling democracy at the local government level.