The Senate has proposed that two and a half per cent of the federal budget be set aside annually for the funding of constituency projects in all the 109 senatorial districts and 360 federal constituencies in the country.
In a new bill titled “Constituency Development Fund Bill, 2019″, the upper chamber also set a five-year jail term, without an option of fine, for anyone found guilty of misappropriating the constituency fund.
Former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, sponsored the bill. If passed into law, the bill, which passed through First Reading at Senate plenary last Tuesday, will strip federal ministries and agencies of powers to determine the funding, implementation, and management of constituency projects initiated by federal lawmakers and accommodated in the country’s yearly budgets.
The new bill is seeking the establishment of a dedicated fund, which would be 2.5 per cent of the country’s annual budget, to be managed solely by the Rural Development Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
This is contrary to the current practice where the constituency projects federal lawmakers wish to be executed in their respective constituencies are captured in the annual budget while the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) not only award the contracts but also execute them.
The development has, allegedly, resulted in several cases of abandoned and poorly executed projects due to non-release of funds or poor funding by the federal government. An example was the non-release of theN100 billion earmarked in the 2019 budget for constituency projects by the executive arm of government.
The new bill seeks to introduce a funding regime that would streamline the management and implementation of constituency development funds in the country.
The decisions on the projects to be implemented, according to the provisions of the bill, would remain with the various constituencies through the Constituency Development Project Advisory Committees set up for each federal constituency and senatorial district.
According to Section 4(1) of the proposed bill, “There is established a Fund to be known as the Constituencies Development Fund which shall:
(a) be a national Fund consisting of moneys of an amount of not less than 2.5 % (two and 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 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.”
Section 35(1)(2) of the bill further stipulates that the provisions of the bill shall be complimentary to other development efforts of the federal government in the senatorial districts and federal constituencies.
According to the Section, “The provisions of this Act shall be complimentary to any other development efforts by the Federal Government, the State Governments or any other agency and nothing in this Act shall be taken or interpreted to mean that an area may be excluded from any other development programmes of any level of government.
“For the avoidance of doubt, normal government development allocations shall continue alongside the projects funded under this Act.”
Section 36 of the proposed bill make provisions for a jail term of five years without any option of fine for financial offences that may be committed under the law.
It states, “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.”