Newspaper:Continuity of project implementation
You Are Here:  Skip Navigation LinksHome>News Center>Article Page
Continuity of project implementation
04 Mar 2013: Eze Onyekpere

Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020 had identified discontinuity of development plans, programmes and projects as part of the bane of effective budgeting in Nigeria. It proposed a framework under a new legal regime that will ensure project implementation continuity even if there is a change in government. Considering the number of abandoned projects at all tiers of government, this is a sure step in the right direction. At the federal level, the Presidential Projects Assessment Committee led by Architect Ibrahim Bunu, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, had reported that there are 11,886 abandoned capital projects which will require N7.78 trillion to complete. This was the finding as of June 2011 and as inflation continues its rough ride, more resources would be needed if the projects are scheduled for completion today. Recent reports also indicate that abandoned projects of the Niger Delta Development Commission will require at least N1.4trn to complete. These figures do not include the valuation of abandoned projects at the state and local government levels which may likely be of the same magnitude with the federal figures.
How did Nigeria arrive at this destination in its development and budgeting process? The major underlying reason is that power has been entrusted to elected and appointed officials and career civil servants without a commensurate duty to be accountable to citizens. There should be public consensus around development plans which will anchor the annual budget. This will include consensus around its major policy thrusts and the projects that will lead to the realisation of its major goals and objectives. Projects and activities drawn from this plan and funded by the treasury through annual budgets, as such, will be owned not just by the administration in power but by the entire citizens of the state. Essentially, development plans and their accompanying budgets should be products of popular participation. Accountability here implies budgeting according to the public consensus enacted in the development plans.
However, elected officials from the president, governors, to the local government chairmen see their election as a call to abandon ongoing projects commenced by their predecessors in office. It does not matter that the projects are in the public interest. Also, it does not matter that the former and present office holders are from the same political party and the manifesto of the party did not change within the period under review. The thinking, sadly, is that the credit and the glory will go to the previous administration if the new one continues with the projects they initiated. But governance is a continuous exercise and two administrations are bound to take credit for initiating, continuing and completing large-scale projects. Furthermore, the fact that the overarching national development policy, being Vision 2020, has not been amended is not considered.  The new men and women in power believe that they had been given power to determine projects to be funded by the treasury without getting clearance from the people and without confirming its harmony with existing development plans. In the process of initiating new projects, too many activities are inserted in the budget year after year with very little resources to implement them. Thus, the resources are so thinly spread over so many projects leading to sub-optimal results in development expenditure.
There are perverse incentives for public officials to abandon projects started by their predecessors. The procurement process from the federal to the state level, despite all pretensions to the contrary, has not been sufficiently reformed to delink the personal interests of the person(s) awarding contracts from the contract award itself. In essence, public officials deem and know that the kickbacks and bribes in old and ongoing projects have already been collected by the preceding public officials and as such, there is not much to be personally gained in continued implementation. The alternative is to upwardly review the cost of an ongoing contract for the new men to get “a piece of the action”. But this may raise suspicion from the discerning public. Therefore, their best option is to design a new project (notwithstanding that it has no bearing on the welfare of citizens or growth of the economy) and get kickbacks from the exercise. The Presidential Project Assessment Committee found that political and personal considerations outweighed national interest in the award of contracts. The committee further stated that majority of the contracts were procurement-driven rather than development driven.
What should be the contours of a legislation to ensure project continuity and discourage abandonment of projects? There is a bill pending before the House of Representatives for an “Act to make Development Planning Compulsory for all Tiers of Government in Nigeria and to Create Coherent and Measurable Targets in Developmental Initiatives in Support of the Attainment of the Goals of Vision 20:2020 and for Other Related Matters”. Although, the parameters of this bill are broad and beyond the strict confines of project continuity, Section Four of it states that as from the commencement of the Act, it shall be unlawful for a government of the Federation to have an abandoned project in any part of Nigeria. It calls for the establishment of a registry of projects for all ongoing and completed projects detailing the location, cost and purpose of each project and means of identification, the project commencement date and the agreed or projected date of completion. The register should also include information on budgetary and funding sources of the project; the contractor in-charge of the project; amounts, disbursed and expended on the project; the estimated amount required for completion; and any other information or details pertaining to the implementation of the project. In its Section 3, the formulation of a development plan has been made compulsory for the three tiers of government.
How will this bill outlaw or enforce project continuity considering the constitutional powers of the legislature on appropriation which are not tied to or given with reference to development plans or any policy instrument? Good as the intentions of the bill may be, it will require an amendment to the constitutional Executive and Legislative powers of appropriation to be able to ensure that new projects are not started without completing ongoing ones except in cases of actual emergency or urgent national importance. It must also define the powers of appropriation in the Executive and Legislature by referencing them to development plans. It will not be enough for either the Executive or the Legislature to state in passing that the budget was prepared or approved in accordance with the plan; it has to justify such postulation by empirical evidence.  For the development plan to effectively bind future expenditure, the law must ensure that it is a product of popular participation anchored on the identification of citizens’ priorities. The law should provide opportunities for citizens to participate in the budgeting process to ensure the convergence of plans and budget.  Such a law should also provide access to courts for all citizens without any restrictive locus standi requirement to challenge any untoward conspiracy between the executive and the legislature to sabotage the development planning process. Abandoned projects constitute a huge waste of public resources and efforts to clean up the system deserves public support.
  About Akwa Ibom Government State Development News Center Site Info  
  People Executive Infrastructure Development State News Site Map  
  Social Legislative Service Delivery Features Feedback  
  Resources Judicary People Development In Newspapers FAQ  
  Investing Federal Legislators Mega Projects Events Gallery Contact Us  
  Geography and Location Laws of Akwa Ibom Interministerial Photo Gallery Accessibility  
  Culture Ministries State Projects Article Search Privacy  
  Tourism State Agencies Transforming Projects Flight Schedule Blog  
  Cuisine Local Government Movie Schedule  
Copyright © 2012 Government of Akwa Ibom State