Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The House of Representatives has begun an investigation into the payment of mobilisation fees totalling N70.495bn made by the Niger Delta Development Commission to 1,773 contractors, who did not report to sites.
The payment were made between 2008 and 2012, according to an audit query issued the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
The office has issued 219 queries on the NDDC’s finances.
The House Committee on Public Accounts, at its investigating hearing, which began on Friday, asked the acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Prof. Kemebrandikumo Pondei, to provide details of the projects and list of all defaulting contractors.
Pondei was also told to provide statements of account showing the funds recovered from the contractors as alluded to by the acting Director of Internal Audit, Mr Itu Eno Ubi, who argued that only N19bn had yet to be recovered from the contractors.
The report by the OAuGF alleged that 90 per cent of the contractors collected the mandatory mobilisation fees without reporting to site between 2011 and 2012, for contracts that should have been completed within six months.
The auditor-general said 60 per cent of the contractors had claimed to have completed the projects, but the claims could not be verified.
Ubi, who represented the NDDC boss, argued that the funds were released to the banks that guaranteed the contractors. He also said the funds had been recovered from some of the errant contractors, leaving the balance of N19bn, against the N70bn mentioned in the audit queries.
Ubi added that some of the contractors were unable to complete the projects due to insecurity.
The Chairman of the committee, Mr Wole Oke, however, criticised the NDDC as failing to address the various issues raised in the audit queries between 2008 and 2012.
Oke said, “What the auditor-general did was to invoke Section 4 of the Audit Act to discover the anomalies in the NDDC. The main issue is whether the Interim Management Committee (of the commission) has rendered the accounts up to 2018. We stopped at 2018 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But clearly, there are issues here and there.”
The committee, therefore, directed NDDC management to provide the letters of award of all the contracts and the commission’s statements of account showing the refunds.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives will this week begin the investigation of the NDDC over alleged extra-budgetary spending of N40bn.
The House Committee on NDDC will on Wednesday and Thursday grill top officials of the commission at the investigative hearing.
The Chairman of the committee, Mr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, while speaking with our correspondent on the telephone on Friday, denied allegations of budget padding and contract inflation made by the NDDC.
At the herring by the Senate on Thursday, the Executive Director, Projects, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, had dismissed the allegation of spending N40bn illegally, alleging that influential members of the NDDC committees of the National Assembly instigated the probe because the EIMC stopped the various ways they were stealing the agency’s resources.
But Tunji-Ojo said top officials of the NDDC had been making efforts to frustrate the probe by both chambers of the National Assembly.