•Alleges shady deals in 2012 constituency projects
From IHEANACHO NWOSU, Abuja
The Presidency may have ordered a probe of the level of implementation of the National Assembly’s N60 billion constituency projects in this year’s budget. The move might be a veiled counter by the executive to persistent allegations by the National Assembly that the former had done little to implement the 2012 capital vote.
According to findings by Sunday Sun, the recent criticisms of the National Assembly by some of President Goodluck Jonathan’s aides were based on documents at the disposal of the presidency which indicts the National Assembly members on constituency projects. Although the National Assembly members do not handle funds allocated to constituency projects, they nevertheless, influence the direction and shape of the contracts.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe and the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Dr. Ahmed Gulag had recently flayed the National Assembly for wrongly tackling President Jonathan during the presentation of the 2013 budget. Okupe had accused the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, of making statements that were out of tune with realities during the budget presentation.
The two presiding officers however, took Okupe to the cleaners, warning him to stop dabbling into areas he was not competent to speak on. The Senate went further to pass a motion calling on Jonathan to caution his aides against unguarded utterances. Though President Jonathan through his Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Joy Emordi, distanced himself from the two aides’ criticisms, Sunday Sun gathered that they were indeed hinting of the Presidency’s planned probe of the constituency projects funds.
A source in the Presidency who pleaded anonymity said the probe would let the public know that the National Assembly was not as innocent as the controversy over the slow pace of budget implementation had tended to show. He said: “ The presidency is probing the N60billion constituency projects to tell the world the whole truth about the budget implementation which has raised so much dust”. Some of the agencies of government, he stated, had dubbed the constituency projects initiated by some of the legislators as “job for the boys,” many of which were said to have failed due process.
“The truth of the matter is that many of the projects the lawmakers are worrying about cannot be implemented. They are not well thought-out and many of them cannot pass through due process. “The tragedy of the whole issue is that the Due Process office has been bullied to stay off projects initiated by National Assembly members. So you find most of the agencies being stuck with the implementation”, the official said. Another source stated that the Due Process office has been asked to scrutinize the N60 billion constituency projects of the National Assembly members to ensure that the “job for the boys” components were removed.
He said: “Many of the Constituency projects included by the legislature are believed to be padded and may not have passed due process. The executive believed that the Due Process office was mostly intimidated to leave the scrutiny of the projects thereby leaving the budget in jeopardy. “It is not all the projects. Many Senators were known to have initiated credible projects but the questions are hanging on projects of many Federal Constituencies.
” Sources in Abuja further said that in order to forestall future occurrence, the government was contemplating a suit at the Supreme Court, where knotty issues about the functions of the National Assembly and the executive would be resolved. “A lot of distortions crop up in the budget process due largely to the misrepresentation of Section 81 of the 1999 Constitution.
The National Assembly seems to have developed the thinking that the power over appropriation lies solely with them. This is erroneous and the government may be forced to try this out in the Supreme Court”, said a source.