By Ndubuisi Francis
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA), Senator Godswill Akpabio has inaugurated the first batch of forensic auditors to scrutinise the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which has been mired in allegations of mind-boggling corruption.
The auditors made up of eight groups include Ernest & Young, which is in charge of Lot 1 (NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt); G.E. Osagie & Co– Lot 2 (Abia); Abuchi E.D, Ogbuju & Co–Lot 3B (Akwa Ibom), and Alliance Consulting—Lot 4B (Bayelsa).
Others are Sada Idris & Co–Lot 6A (Delta); Skillfield Associates Services– Lot 6B (Delta); Discovery Cycle Professionals –Lot 7B (Edo), and BBC Professionals –Lot 8 ( Imo)
Inaugurating the audit teams in his office in Abuja, Friday, Akpabio, whose ministry oversees the interventionist agency, said the presidential directive for the holistic examination of activities of the NDDC from inception in 2000 to August 2019, was not just in furtherance of the present administration’s policy agenda to check corruption but a determined effort to reposition the agency to change the narrative in the region.
According to him, the eight forensic auditors were cleared by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) based on individual firms’ technical competencies and financial compliance.
The minister recalled that government’s effort at repositioning the Niger Delta region led to the formation of NDDC in 2000 by an Act of parliament, mainly to address the issues of ecological and socio-economic development problems after many failed attempts.
Regrettably, he noted that most of the problems that led to the failure of previous development institutions, including the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB) created in 1958 and Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) in 1992, all failed because their operations were marred by lack of focus, excessive corruption, political interference and high overhead cost, which are still prominent in the present NDDC.
A statement issued by the Director (Press & PR), Deworitshe Patricia, said the minister stated that it was pertinent to have a forensic audit considering the amount of resources poured into the Commission over the years compared with the level of development recorded over the same period of time.
He said: “The forensic audit of the Commission is supposed to examine and provide answers, as well as creating a framework for reversing the failures recorded in the past in order to recover those resources recoverable, plug the gaps and stop the waste that is keeping the region under developed.
“Therefore, the forensic audit should be seen as an opportunity and not a witch-hunt, it is considered as an important project by President Muhammadu Buhari Administration. It will also provide a strong base upon which a new NDDC will emerge.”
In his remarks, the Minister of State, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Omotayo Alasoadura while appealing to the auditors to do a thorough job assured them that the ministry would put everything in place to ensure that the goals of the forensic audit are realised.
He also stated that states not covered by this initial audit would be brought on board.
Earlier in his address, the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Babayo Ardo noted that the approval, appointment and inauguration of the field auditors signals the commencement of the auditing process.
He noted that this is the most extensive audit ever ordered by any administration in the country to undertake a complete forensic exercise of projects, to establish statutory and non-statutory funds paid to contractors, identify names of beneficiaries of contracts and ways which leakages can be blocked, so that funds could be appropriately channeled.
In a speech, the Principal Lead Consultant, Olumuyiwa Basiru & Co, Kabiru Ahmed, said the forensic audit exercise should be seen as a serious effort by the government to save the Commission from destruction, as well as to stop the rot and chart a new course for serious repositioning of the agency.
This, he stated, to enable the agency efficiently channel the massive resources at its disposal for effective development of the region.
He added that in order to successfully execute the forensic audit exercise, President Muhammadu Buhari had listed some terms of reference for compliance and guidance for all auditors involved.
Such terms of reference include to undertake a complete forensic exercise of the NDDC activities in their respective states of assignment; examine and establish whether due process was followed in allocating projects to various NDDC states; to properly examine the regulatory framework guiding the Commission for the award of contracts, and to establish due compliance or non- compliance with such guidelines for the award of contracts during the period under review, among others.