Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Senate Committee on Public Accounts wednesday uncovered 1,697 contract scams allegedly perpetrated by the management of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) at an investigative hearing organised by the committee in the National Assembly.
While the committee was scrutinising the records of contracts executed by NDDC between 2014 and 2016, the commission represented by its Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Seminitari, could not provide verifiable evidence of approval for 1,691 contracts.
Displeased by the development, the committee Chairman, Senator Andy Uba, ordered the commission to ensure it searches out verifiable records of approval for the contracts within seven days along with evidences of approval for all the contracts executed within the period as well as a relevant certificate of no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP). It accused NDDC of presenting vague reports to the committee.
“This committee and by extension, the Senate, is not happy with this vague report before us particularly on contract award, date of award, level of execution, names of contractors etc,” Uba said.
The committee also queried the rationale behind the commission’s decision to operate 22 bank accounts before the implementation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) in 2015, bearing in mind that only four accounts were approved for the commission by federal government at the time.
The committee also frowned at the commission unilateral decision to operate unauthorised accounts and insisted that such illegal accounts must be thoroughly investigated. It therefore mandated NDDC to send the names of the 22 banks where the accounts were domiciled along with statements of such accounts before the implementation of TSA.
The committee was also irritated by the commission’s failure to pay accumulated tax to the tune of N28.7 billion to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as it equally ordered it to immediately begin to off set such volume of debt to FIRS.
However, Seminitari explained that of the N28.7 billion unpaid tax, N23billion had been owed by the commission before her emergence as NDDC boss, adding that the balance of N5.7 billion was a penalty imposed on it by FIRS. She also explained that the commission had entered into an agreement with FIRS on the payment schedule.
The commission was also accused of deliberately omitting its income figures in its 2016 income and expenditure report. This accusation prompted Seminitari to disclose how the federal government allocated N23.5billion to NDDC within the period under review as well as another N87.1billion proceeds it got from oil companies. But the committee viewed the subsequent explanation as an after thought.
While reeling out the records of the commission’s ineptitude earlier, Uba said: “The committee as part of its mandate of ensuring accountability and transparency in the management of the public account of the federation and on receipt of petitions of corruption on the award of contracts at the commission decided to embark on special oversight on income and expenditure of the commission.
“Sequel to the above, the committee wrote the commission on 23rd and 30th August, 2016 requesting for information on revenue, expenditure and personel information. The commission was to respond within the period of two weeks and on the 16th September, invited the acting managing director to appear before it on September 20, 2016.
“The commission refused to furnish the committee with the requested information and the managing director did not appear before the committee. The committee again wrote another reminder to the commission on the requested information and rescheduled the appearance of the MD to 22nd September, 2016.”