This report tracked six Teachers’ Quarters projects at different locations in Ebonyi state, South East Nigeria.
The government had budgeted and released twenty million each for individual schools . This project tracked to see level of execution, compliance in relation to monies spent.
The project exposed financial fraud of atleast forty million Naira from non-existent projects of the Teachers Quarters . We also exposed abandonment and how those structures exisiting may not be up to Twenty million naira said to be spent on them.
The project also exposed how companies got contract illegally and non-existent companies also got contracts in the Teachers’ Quarters project.
We deployed physical verification of the projects to get physical data on their state, we also used the company registrations database of Nigeria to expose non-existent companies, illegal companies.
Furthermore we deployed information on the Bureau of Public Procurement while leveraging on existing public procurement and company operation laws of the country to arrive at the report and expose.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The locations of these projects were in Ebonyi state one of the states ravaged by insecurity currently and exposed the reporting team to insecurity especially with rural areas getting allocated monies. Getting the data on their physical state took some risks. At the time of the report, killings were rife in South Eastern Nigeria and also being exposed to wanting to reveal a government corruption left the team at mercy of the unknown. At various occasions we were unsure of our safety but the need to gather the data propelled the report.
The report played the role of exposing abandoned projects, non-existent projects and underutilization of funds despite monies released already.
It at same time played the role of exposing contract irregularities, showing that companies that shouldnt get contract got it.
This was not just exposing corruption but informing people and the media about using data to expose corrupt deeds while also setting reportorial standards on use of data journalism for societal good.
What can others learn from this project?
Other journalists can learn the art of leveraging on existing data pool to expose corruption.
This report also showed the importance of taking risks to verify public projects. One of the challenges involved in verifying this kind of projects is the safety of doing so.
Also journalists can learn how to track data on government projects and appropriate details that can help create a red flag.
This also remains pivotal for Accountability journalism.