Few days after the Senate clipped the powers of the chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and reduced fines for a corrupt public official found to have inflated contracts as observed in many of lawmakers’ constituency projects, a report in the media may give an idea into why the lawmakers are not enamoured by the powers the head of the anti-graft agency enjoys.
One of the amendments, which a source said the federal lawmakers are putting in place to protect themselves in or outside office, if found to have contravened the law, is in Section 22 (3) of the principal act which provides that “any public officer who, in the course of his official duties, inflates the price of any goods or service above the prevailing market price or professional standards shall be guilty of an offence under this act and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of seven years and a fine of one million naira”.
The amendment to that subsection now puts the fine at N500,000 with no option of a jail term.
The Punch newspaper reports that the ICPC has uncovered National Assembly members’ uncompleted constituency projects worth over N45 billion.
The newspaper reports that documents it exclusively obtained indicated that the projects were tracked by sectors and states, showing the numerical and percentile breakdown of the projects.
It adds: “This is part of the Constituency and Executive Projects Tracking Initiative of the ICPC, which is in its fifth stage, following the completion of the fourth stage in 2022. It was learnt that the tracking had helped the anti-graft agency to track about 4,000 projects valued at about N200bn.
“It was gathered that the ongoing phase five is in collaboration with 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, the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, media practitioners and civil society organisations that constitute the steering committee.
“They include 205 healthcare projects, 76 water supply projects, 67 environment and natural resources projects, 66 education projects and 40 power projects, all tracked across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
“According to the documents, taking the lead is the FCT with 13.01 per cent; followed by Lagos State with 9.48 per cent; Kano and Borno states, 8.92 per cent each; Plateau State,5.58 per cent; Nasarawa State, 5.39 per cent; Enugu State, 5.2 per cent; Ebonyi State, 4.83 per cent while Ogun, Kaduna and Yobe states have 4.28 per cent each.
“Similarly, Ekiti and Taraba states have 3.53 per cent each; Adamawa, Kebbi, and Edo states, 3.35 per cent each; Delta, 2.97 per cent; Akwa-Ibom, 2.6 per cent; Benue, 2.94 per cent; and Rivers State, 1.12 per cent.
“The fifth phase, involving 712 government-funded projects, commenced in November, 2022 in 20 states, namely Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Katsina, Kwara, Niger, Kogi, Cross River, Delta, Rivers, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Borno, Bauchi, and Gombe states.
“The exercise, which kicked off in 2019, is said to be focused on investigating fraudulent procurement practices in the award of contracts for the selected projects across the country.
“The ICPC, in a statement in November 2022, said it aimed to ensure that all government-funded projects were executed fully to their specifications and to make recoveries where the project costs were either inflated by contractors or were poorly executed.”
Recall that just last Tuesday, Senators passed a bill to amend the ICPC act, it concentrated curiously on the powers on the powers of its chairman.
While the lawmakers amended Section 25 of the law to imprison writers of false petitions for two years without an option of fine, the lawmakers curiously altered Section 7(1) of the ICPC principal act which provides that “the chairman may issue administrative orders to be called ‘standing orders’, which shall conform with the provisions of the general control, training, duties and responsibilities of officers of the commission, and for such other matters as may be necessary or expedient for the good administration of the commission and to ensure the efficient and effective functioning of the commission” replacing chairman with commission.
There would also now “deputy commissioners, assistant commissioners, superintendents, assistant superintendent, senior investigators, investigators” in Section 4(7).
Another amendment is where Section 4(2) provides “that the chairman and any four members of the commission shall constitute a quorum”, there is a new subsection 2(a) which reads: “The proceedings of the meeting of the commission shall be as provided in the schedule to this act”.