By Olayinka Owolewa
Ilorin, July 24, 2020 Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara has proposed a social auditing process that would allow civic groups and communities to monitor government projects to ensure quality work was done before further payments.
AbdulRazaq said this at a zoom meeting with the coordinator, Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENETSUD), Dr Abdullateef Alagbonsi, on Friday in Ilorin.
According to him, social auditing will see civic groups and communities monitoring projects and issuing independent reports.
The governor said their reports would form the basis of his government making further payments to affected contractors after the initial mobilisation fee.
AbdulRazaq said he made the proposal to reassure Kwara people that he had nothing to hide, adding that it aligned with the clamour for projects funded with public resources to meet the standard specified in the contract terms.
He, however, called for confidence building between government and civic groups.
AbdulRazaq said that engagements by civic groups should be devoid of name-calling, preconceived notions, or a mindset that saw every government official as dishonest.
He said such mindsets often widened the gap between the government and civil groups which he observed must always work together for development to occur.
“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 had 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 lock 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 per cent and 70 per cent. Now this is the time that our own M&E (monitoring and evaluation teams) are moving in to monitor the projects.
“I have received certificates that they are due for their next payment and even the House of Assembly has gone to inspect some of these projects,” the Governor said.
The Governor said he would like a case where before his government paid contractors, he would ask civil societies like yours to come in to monitor the projects.
“We can say fine these are the bills of quantity for this project, go through them, inspect the projects and see where there are shortcomings before we actually pay the contractors for the next stage to go on
“It would be hard for anyone to do substandard work if we have some sort of social auditing from the community or from CSO 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 because I do not want to sign off and somebody would say ‘they have chopped money’.
“We want to make sure that contractors do their job well so that nobody will accuse me of anything,” the Governor explained.
AbdulRazaq said “there is a need to build confidence and then if we can build proper confidence between us, FOI bill is nothing.”
“In fact, what we are talking about is more than FOI bill because FOI bill is saying you have done this, I need investigation to show that you have done the right work.
“But in this case what we are saying is that you would be involved even before the work is finished,” AbdulRazaq said.
AbdulRazaq said for a start of the innovative decision, asked the civic group to immediately nominate between three and four of the ongoing school or road projects which they would monitor and issue independent reports upon which further payments to contractors would be based.
He said the government would set up a committee to interface with the civic group on how to proceed with the social auditing.
He pledged to offer them the necessary support to ensure that quality jobs were delivered and avoid people blaming him (the Governor) for poor jobs.
Alagbonsi, who commended the Governor for the meeting and the historic offer, said the group would work with the government to monitor the ongoing school and road projects in the state.
He said that it would ensure that standard was adhered to and guide the Governor in making his decision on the projects.
Alagbonsi said they would, for a start, monitor and file reports 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.
“What you have presented now is the least expected, as I have never imagined that a state Governor would think of calling an independent body like a CSO to monitor how government projects are being done.
“So, as you were presenting your speech, I was getting surprised in my mind that over time, unfortunately, there has been a form of a gap between us as a CSO and the government.
“I salute your sincerity, maturity and open-mindedness to conceptualise the idea of calling this meeting to make this proposal.
“I am very happy to hear from you,” Alagbonsi said.
Alagbonsi said ENETSUD’s advocacy on the FOI bill was borne out of his desire to ensure that Kwara money works for Kwara people, saying the group’s experience in the past was why it presented the FOI Bill to the last Assembly.