By Femi Adesina
President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday in Abuja said the Government edged forward in promoting sustainable development by creating a digital application, Eyemark, that enables citizens to monitor and evaluate capital projects, in real-time, with unimpeded access to information on stakeholders, including contract terms and the contractors.
President Buhari, who launched the digital application at the Council Chamber of the State House, said the innovation would help to forestall the practice of abandoning projects as all stakeholders, like communities, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), contractors, Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, and citizens would continually interact on one platform.
The President said Eyemark, which would provide a regular update on the status of capital projects across the country through bottom-up interactive processes, would be fully involved at every stage, including knowing the cost, structure, benefit, and framework for maintenance after completion.
“The Eyemark application tackles the two major constraints we have faced as a country in our monitoring and evaluation efforts. Eyemark introduces a digital approach to monitoring & evaluation in the Federal Government that gives MDAs the ability to harness geospatial and project implementation data on a continuous basis.
“Furthermore, the constraint of limited monitoring and evaluation personnel is addressed by utilizing a bottom-up approach through crowdsourcing geotagged data from Nigerians in every part of the country. Not only does this address the pressing monitoring and evaluation issues, but it also institutes accountability and transparency in the system, in line with my commitment to Nigerians and the Open Government Partnership.
“With the Eyemark application, Nigerians worldwide can access project information with the click of a button. Project data such as its status, timeline, executing contractors, the amount appropriated and spent so far, amongst others, are now available in the public space.
“With the ability for citizens to give reviews and feedback in real-time on projects around them, we are closing the existing gaps and promoting participation in governance. Due to its decentralised nature, the Eyemark application brings together all project stakeholders to the table, such as Contractors and Civil Society Organisations in addition to MDAs and Citizens.
“This means that we must all play our roles in the success of project implementation through Eyemark. As such, the Eyemark application should be used by all Federal MDAs as the primary tool for project monitoring and evaluation,’’ he said.
President Buhari implored all MDAs to furnish the application with the relevant data and information for all current and future projects, as the Eyemark application offers an opportunity to sensitise and advertise to the world the goals and magnitude of infrastructure projects being carried out by the government.
He urged the MDAs to work closely with the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning through the National Monitoring and Evaluation Department to continually build upon current efforts.
“On their part, the contractors should similarly utilise the platform as a means to keep citizens abreast of your good works, updating them regularly as projects progress or unforeseen circumstances arise.
“We are spotlighting our collaboration on infrastructure delivery, and your role in this cannot be understated. To my fellow Nigerians and CSOs that speak on behalf of those that cannot, you are the main stakeholder in every project we undertake. As I encourage you to review our projects, I also assure you that your constructive feedback will not be met with deaf ears but an M&E team eagerly ready to respond to you and take action.
“Let me now use this opportunity to commend the Minister and Minister of State of Finance, Budget and National Planning, their dedicated team, and the brilliant minds that made this a reality, for this feat which is in line with our transparency, inclusiveness and participation policy of our Government, especially the Budget and National Planning arm, for delivering on this key mandate and their commitment and efforts towards a more thorough and prosperous Nigeria,’’ President Buhari stated.
The President charged MDAs and the State Governments to work together in extending the effort across all tiers of government to promote a more robust and contextual database of projects.
“I am extremely delighted to launch and deploy the Eyemark application as the primary tool for Monitoring and Evaluating Federal Government Projects. I do this remembering the words of the Global CEO of the Open Government Partnership as he mentioned that the Eyemark application is “the first nationally coordinated citizens’ driven web application that aligns with Open Governance Partnership Strategy that he has come across in the World” and that he believes “it is an excellent innovation that Nigeria can share with other nations of the World.” Let us make the system work,’’ he added.
The President said Eyemark would remain an official tool for Monitoring and Evaluating Federal Government’s capital projects.
“The aim of this Government is to secure its people through providing a strong economy, protection from external forces and an enabling environment for citizens and businesses to thrive. To achieve this goal, we embark on multiple large, medium, and small-scale projects, running into tens of thousands of projects yearly. These projects are carefully planned collaborative efforts, each aimed at achieving a predetermined goal.
“To ensure that these projects are successful and impactful to Nigerians and our economy, I believe it is critical for their implementation to be monitored and evaluated at their various stages. However, the state of the country’s Monitoring and Evaluation method has seen thousands of well-meaning capital projects abandoned or poorly implemented over the years.
‘Although corruption, which this administration has fought and continues to fight, has played a role in the alarming number of poorly executed and abandoned projects in the country, we must look beyond it and simultaneously tackle the other contributing factors.
“Top of which is our current paper-based method of Monitoring and Evaluation coupled with the overwhelming ratio of projects to Monitoring and Evaluation personnel. We cannot realistically expect a few individuals to effectively monitor tens of thousands of projects appropriated for during each budgetary cycle,’’ President Buhari said.
The President noted that his administration had invested more than any administration in infrastructure, adding, “but unless we closely monitor our investments, they will yield less value.’’
“It was with this backdrop that I mandated the Minister and Minister of State, Finance, Budget, and National Planning in 2019 to address our issues and constraints of monitoring and evaluating capital projects.
“I am delighted to say that the mandate has been delivered through the deployment of EYEMARK,’’ he said.
In his remarks, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Agba, said the Eyemark project was inspired by the monitoring and evaluation during the Covid-19 pandemic by the ministry and realized by talented young Nigerians.
He said the “homegrown and nationally coordinated’’ application had transited governments from the era of “earmarking’’ projects, with little or no monitoring tools, to “eye marking’’, where all stakeholders will be fully involved at every stage.
Agba explained that citizen empowerment begins with ownership, where people can freely take photographs of projects, upload them for review and also post comments, and the feedback loop will be sustained by all stakeholders.
The minister thanked President Buhari for his interest and endorsement of the project, which practically reflects his position on transparency and accountability, particularly with citizen participation.
Agba said the digital application will be extended to states and development partners for free.
@views exclusive rights: Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity, December 21, 2022.