House to Probe N343m Spent on Water Projects

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Udora Orizu in Abuja

The House of Representatives yesterday resolved to carry out a comprehensive investigation into how the sum of N343 million allocated to the Federal Ministry of Water Resources for water projects was spent as well as why the Ministry refused to give the vouchers covering the amount to the Auditor General of the Federation for audit.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Public Account, Hon. Oluwole Oke, who spoke at an investigative hearing into audit queries issued to the government agencies, told the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Comfort Ekaro, to furnish details of how N343 million, whose vouchers were not presented to the Auditor General for audit, was spent.

Oke directed the Clerk of the Committee to write the director-general of the Corporate Affairs Commission requesting the names of owners of the companies which benefited from the N343 million contract as well as the executive chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) requesting information on withholding tax from the companies.

He also expressed displeasure that the ministry made a contractor to obtain a bank facility of N137 million as down payment for an earth dam in Ibusa in Delta State in 2013, while paying them N75 million in two installments.

Oke said the action of the ministry may have destroyed the corporate image of the organisation, adding that paying the full mobilisation of N137 million in 2017, two years after the project was supposed to have been completed, was not good enough for the country.
Similarly, the committee frowned at the funding process for the Adada Water Project in Enugu State awarded at the cost of N2.578 billion with a completion period of 24 months in 2010.

The Auditor General, Anthony Ayine, had in his query, said the contract for the construction of the earth dam in Ibusa, Delta State, was awarded at the cost of over N800 million in December 2013 with a completion period of 18 months, lamenting that two years after the award of the contract, only N75 million had been paid to the contractor.

He said finding by his office was indicative of the fact that there was no concrete payment plan for the project and several other projects within the ministry, leading to delay in execution of such projects.

Responding, the permanent secretary told the committee that the ministry had no money to fund the project because it was consistently removed from the budget.

She said poor budgetary allocation was responsible for the poor payment made to the contractor, adding that in most cases, money budgeted for the project were not released.