NDDC Audit: Forensic Experts Advise FG to Constitute New Board

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Oluchi Chibuzor

As more Nigerians continue to applaud President Muhammadu Buhari for ordering the forensic audit of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) from 2001 till date, some forensic experts have advised the president that only an independent audit supervised by persons who had not been part of the commission would be adjudged credible and objective.

They gave the advice in separate interview with THISDAY.

According to an auditor, who is currently a Research Fellow at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Dr. Elisha Jones, given that the forensic audit was being conducted to examine NDDC’s financial records to derive evidence which can even be used in a court of law, and seeks to uncover incidents of corruption, the interim management of the Commission should be asked to step down immediately, while the new Board already announced by the President should assume duties and supervise.

This, he argued, would ensure fairness and transparency.

Jones, pointed out that, “without prejudice to the current management it was reported in the media that they had secretly interviewed and was set to recruit over 300 new staff members, which took the outcry of well-meaning stakeholders in the Niger Delta Region to halt the exercise. 

“In my view this is not the leadership that should be entrusted with this level of activity to unravel what has happened in the past which supposedly involves them.”

In his own contribution, Festus Oyekanmi, of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, who is a certified forensic accountant and certified fraud examiner, advocated the need for forensic audit to be truly independent and objective since it has to thoroughly evaluate the soundness of internal control policies and review compliance with policies as well as governmental rules and regulations.

Stressing the need for independence he stated that, “one of the steps in forensic audit engagement is to perform a conflict check,” which also requires third-party verification to confirm matters that arise.

In his paper on forensic auditing, published in European Journal of Accounting, Auditing and Finance Research, Larry Elenwo, of the Department of Accounting, University of Port Harcourt, also made a case for the interim management of NDDC to step aside since the forensic audit was meant to, “seek out errors, operational vagaries and deviant transactions” such as fraudulent disbursements, window dressing, creative accounting and so on. 

Furthermore, he argued that, to ensure objectivity and credibility, there was little doubt that an external (third) party would be far more independent and objective than a current management. 

The President last week ordered a forensic audit of the operations of the NDDC. The audit, which would cover the commission’s operations from 2001 to 2019, is in response to persistent criticisms of the management of the special intervention agency, set up to address environmental and developmental challenges in the oil-rich area.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, had said in a statement that the president’s order came while receiving a delegation of leaders from the nine states making up the Niger Delta, who were led by Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson.

He had said: “I try to follow the Act setting up these institutions, especially the NDDC. With the amount of money that the federal government has religiously allocated to the NDDC, we will like to see the results on the ground; those that are responsible for that have to explain certain issues.

“The projects said to have been done must be verifiable. You just cannot say you spent so much billions and when the place is visited, one cannot see the structures that have been done. The consultants must also prove that they are competent.”