As the federal government, through its ministries, departments and agencies prepares the 2022 Fiscal Appropriation budget, an analysis of the 2021 zonal intervention projects (ZIPs), otherwise called constituency projects, has revealed that more than 65 percent were found to be unsustainable.
The analysis was done by Dataphyte, an independent programme of the Interactive Initiative for Social Impact to assess the viability of the projects.
Also, the analysis was to ensure the outcome was used to demand critical reforms or total scrapping of the zonal intervention projects as an unnecessary appendage to the country’s budget and fiscal document.
The concept of Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIPs) was introduced in 1999 during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
Popularly called constituent projects, the understanding was that projects selected for execution by the Federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) based on the submission and recommendations of members of the federal legislature at both chambers of the National Assembly after consultations with the people on their needs and aspirations.
Despite the huge budgetary commitments to the projects, various social accountability initiatives, including ‘Tracka’, ‘UDEME’, ‘Follow the Money’, ‘Budeshi’, and ‘Constrack’, have reported myriads of projects that were either untraceable, uncompleted, poorly implemented or abandoned.
Following these observations, Dataphyte carried out a comparative analysis of hard projects (infrastructure, works and construction) and soft projects (training, distribution of equipment, gifting of goods, and cash handouts) in the 2021 zonal intervention projects budget document.
Dataphyte said the aim of the comparative analysis was to appraise in real terms how the 2021 ZIPs met the underlying goals and objectives of providing grassroots empowerment or supplementing infrastructural development to underserved communities across the country.
Details of the analysis revealed that the 2021 Zonal Intervention Projects had heavy provisions for projects that had little or no sustainable impact on the community they were meant to serve.
An analysis of the 1,884 projects in the 2021 ZIP showed that over 65 percent of them could be categorised as soft projects, including trainings, cash grants, and goods and supplies.
Soft projects are so called because the outputs or outcome are intangible or transient in value to individual beneficiaries or communities.
Besides, such projects satisfy a few individuals, who are largely linked to the politicians doling out the ‘empowerment’ benefits, rather than the general populace who would have benefited equally from infrastructure projects.
Based on project categories, a total of ₦64.78 billion out of the allocated N100 billion was spent on soft projects.
This means that more than three out of every five Zonal Intervention Projects approved by the federal legislature for the year 2021 were soft projects.
The implication of this is that 65 percent of the projects did not benefit members of the communities equally, as capital projects did.
Dataphyte’s programmes lead, Charles Mba, said soft projects were the most challenging to track, as their impact are difficult to measure across the lawmakers’ constituencies.
Soft projects by nature, Mba said, totally defeat the purpose of the zonal intervention initiatives and lend disservice to the intended investments in the grassroots.
Founder of the Interactive Initiative for Social Impact, Joshua Olufemi, lamented the expenditure of trillions of Naira by the federal government to alleviate infrastructural gaps at the grassroots without visible impact on the populace.
Olufemi recommended that needs assessment should be a compulsory prerequisite for appropriating constituency projects in the country. He urged lawmakers to consult citizens of communities to determine their needs and desires before zonal intervention projects are conceived.
Also, he proposed that implementing agencies within the executive arm should only request finance for projects they can complete.
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