Many experts are unanimous that corruption in government remains a global challenge. To some, it is a malaise to economic and social development; to others, it hinders the delivery of valuable projects and distorts government abilities to transfer resources to the people.
No longer business as usualIn Bauchi state, hitherto the assumption of Governor Bala Mohammed Abdulkadir in office, it was a collaborative corruption through projects racketeering that saw many contractors providing sub-standards contracts thereby shortchanging the people completely and subsequently abandon the contracts after receiving sometimes full payments.
For Bala Mohammed, that is practically impossible. He’s determined, more than anyone, to curb public corruption and ensure that the people of Bauchi are not shortchanged through shoddy deals and fictitious contracts.
“We started this monitoring in Misau LGA , in almost all the places we have visited so far. I’m satisfied with works of the contractors, but I was not happy when I visited this palace.
“The contractor has failed us, although we have paid him 100 percent. He came back and complained, we added additional money; unfortunately, he couldn’t finish his assignment.
“For this reason, I want to tell you that we have revoked this contract and we shall get a more serious contractor to finish this project in no distant future”, those were the words of Bala Mohammed in Zaki LGA when he commenced monitoring and evaluation of the contracts he awarded since assumption of office.
It was a moment of reflection because unlike many governors in the past, Gov Bala has repeatedly said his government would not condone the ‘business as usual’ syndrome where government officials would descend on public treasury to have a field day.
For him, the bedrock of any serious government interested in fighting against corruption is to constantly engage the citizen in monitoring and evaluating of government projects.
“I’m not here to joke, I’m elected to work for the people of Bauchi state; therefore, we would not tolerate instances where contractors would collect money and abandon the projects halfway,” he reiterated at Zaki, signaling that no contractor would be left unchecked from doing what is expected of them. Certainly not in my government.
The strategy is working
Here, Governor Bala’s strategy is simple—involvement of people to monitor the implementation of government projects in their communities. And as the saying goes; charity begins at home, the governor left his comfort zone, stormed all the nook and crannies of the state where his administration awarded many contracts to see for himself and get feedback from the people.
The governor believes that the twin woes of corruption and bad leadership can be drastically reduced when the larger populace who live in abject poverty are given the opportunity to monitor their projects and make inputs regarding their needs and aspirations. And that is why anywhere the governor goes, he creates room for feedback where the common people of the state are given unhindered access to interact with him.
The journey of monitoring his projects started when, for the first time in the history of Bauchi, the secrecy around budgeting process at every level of government was broken. The usual norm was that the secrecy associated with the budget was used to serve the interests of corrupt government officials who don’t have to account for their actions, but control public resources where looting was made easy since the budgets are usually shrouded in secrecy.
To that extent, the governor has always argued that open government budgets would not only help in removing secrecy by ensuring that all aspects are published as open data, but also help in identifying budget errors and discrepancies.
He believes that access to information such as budgets would allow citizens to make useful suggestions and inputs in line with their needs.The governor’s strategy is that tracking government budgeted projects would ensure service delivery and by extension reduce corruption.
“My administration is determined to uphold transparency, community engagement, and participation”, which he says would make government accountable to the people it serves.
With this, Governor Bala, as he is popularly called, has continued to demonstrate a penchant for social advocacy by using an array of tools through such unceremonious visits and storming of projects’ sites in order to help in setting higher standards of transparency and accountability in the government.
In the past, instances where projects were simply not executed, even though funds had been disbursed remains the order of the day. Again in the past, projects were implemented but didn’t add value to the community where they were sited. That is why the governor is consistent in his argument that people must have value for their money.
His resolve to ensure under-delivery and abandonment of projects did not have space in Bauchi where huge sums of money might have been approved for such projects is usually his watchwords. Monitoring of such projects has also enabled him to guard against budget inflation and over-payment. For instance, since his assumption into office, he has renegotiated many projects awarded by previous governments where they were highly inflated to feed corrupt tendencies and siphon the treasury. Many people may recall how the governor at a point threatened a Chinese company to either return to the site at a renegotiated contract or face complete revocation of the contract; the rest as they say is now history—the project has since been completed.
Insists on monitoring
The governor also said routine monitoring of his projects would curtail the tendencies of duplication of contracts where it’s a known fact that dubious politicians had in the past shortchanged the people by rewarding existing contracts. Such practices made it easy for government officials to deceive the government at the centre by rewarding existing contracts, a practice the governor decimated with his monitoring.
To crown it all, Governor Bala’s resolve to open up his administration and its budgetary process, consistent monitoring of his projects, getting inputs from the people who are the beneficiaries of any government intervention means that his administration is serious in the fight against public graft and entrenching the culture of accountability.
Interestingly, a major key factor for the success of the governor’s strategy is by making the custodians of such projects who now have access to their governor to raise red flags and report possible infringement.
Unfortunately, however, the implication of this strategy is that successive governments may find it difficult to deceive the people again if open government, transparency, and accountability evade their veins. Gidado is the senior special assistant to Governor Bala on media