By Adeniyi Adedeji, Ilorin
Civil society groups and communities in Kwara State will henceforth be monitoring government projects across the state to ensure good quality of works done before payments.
Making the proposal at the weekend, the Kwara State governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, described the development as ‘social audit’.
The governor said that the civil society groups and communities monitoring these projects, would thereafter issue independent reports that would form the basis of his government making nay further payments to the affected contractors after the initial mobilisation fee had been paid.
In a zoom meeting held in Ilorin, the state capital, with the coordinator of Elites Network for Sustainable Development, ENETSUD, led by its Coordinator, Dr Abdullateef Alagbonsi, the governor said he made the proposal to reassure Kwarans that he had nothing to hide.
AbdulRazaq also said that the development would align with the clamours that projects funded with public resources must meet the standard specified in the contract terms.
However, while calling for confidence building between government and civil society groups, the governor said that engagements by the CSOs should be devoid of name-calling, preconceived notions, or a mindset that sees every government official as dishonest.
According to AbdulRazaq, such mindsets often widen the gap between the two sides, which he observed must always work together for development to occur.
The governor said: “We in this administration have absolutely nothing to hide. I often tell people that I already have whatever some persons may be looking for in public office.
“I have those things before getting into government; so I am not going into government to make money. What I am getting at is that the government and the civil society need to build confidence.
“You shouldn’t see us as thieves. If you see us as thieves, we will lock up and say ‘fine, you already have a premeditated mindset or position and (you have) decided that we have stolen money,’ and no matter what we do or say you are coming to paint us with that brush.
“That is why I would look up to say No. But if you have an open mind to say let’s build confidence, let’s try A, B, C and then go ahead and engage and work together and find solutions to some things, then we can move forward.
“Like right now, we awarded contracts for 31 schools; we have not finished paying the contractors, averagely we have paid between 50 and 70 percent, now this is the time that our own Monitoring and Evaluation, M&E, are moving in to monitor the projects.
“It would be hard for anyone to do substandard work if we have some sort of social auditing from the community or from CSOs, who would say the work is good or bad. That way, the collusion or abnormal issuance of certificates by some officials will disappear.
“I am also looking forward to such engagement on the 26 roads we are doing, which are due for final payment. I am deliberately withholding payment because I do not want to sign off and somebody would say they have chopped money.
“We want to make sure that the contractors do their job well so that nobody will accuse me of anything. That is the sort of engagement that would initially build understanding between both parties (government and the people).”
Disclosing that the government would set up a committee to interface with the CSOs on how to proceed with the social auditing, the governor pledged to offer them the necessary support to ensure that quality jobs are delivered and avoid people blaming him (the governor) for poor jobs.
In his response, Alagbonsi, commended the governor for the meeting and the historic offer, promising that the group would work with the government to monitor the ongoing school and road projects to ensure that standard was adhered to and guide the governor in making his decision on the projects.
He said for a start, the group would monitor and file report on the renovation works at the Government High School Ilorin, Patigi Secondary School Patigi, ongoing road projects like Adeta Primary School Road Ilorin and College of Education Road, among others.
Alagbonsi said ENETSUD’s advocacy on the FoI Bill was borne out of its desire to ensure that Kwara money works for Kwara people, saying that the group’s experience in the past was why it presented the FoI Bill to the last Assembly.
He added, “Tracking of public funds has been our core mandate. We have done that without any sinister intention, without the intention to catch any thief. When you go to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC? We have about seven petitions with the EFCC on public projects.”