By Udora Orizu
The Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Kemebradikumo Pondei, yesterday shunned the House of Representatives investigative hearing into the N139.317 billion misappropriated between 2013 and 2018.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Wole Oke, who announced the absence of the NDDC members at the scheduled hearing, resolved to adjourn sitting to Thursday.
Details of the queries were contained in the 96-page special periodic checks on the activities and programmes on NDDC for the period of January 1, 2013 to June 30, 2018.
According to the report, the 626 contractors engaged by the commission for the execution of contracts worth N309,172,941,001.86, received a mobilisation fees of N61,468,160,743.03 in Abia (32 projects); Akwa Ibom (64 projects); Bayelsa (80 projects); Cross River (29 projects); Delta (99 projects); Edo (51 projects); Imo (33 projects); Ondo (50 projects); Rivers (106 projects) and 82 other regional projects.
Some of the queries include: “Waste of public fund due to collection of mobilisation fees without reporting to project sites by contractors – N61,468,160,743. 03; irregularities in the contract for completion of NDDC headquarters building in Port Harcourt, N16.223 billion; irregularities in the execution of contract awarded to Messrs Setraco Nigeria Limited for the construction of Gbaregolor-Gbekbor-Ogulagha road phase 1 for N16,157,782,480.20; unauthorised revision and variation of contract sum without due process and payment above completion level on the contract for the construction of Kaa-Ataba Road and bridges for N10,930,414,996.45.’’
Others include: irregularities in the supply of 3,852 doses of hepatitis B vaccines and 1,570 doses of typhoid vaccines (28) as well as the supply of Lassa Fever kits in 23 lots to NDDC warehouse in Port Harcourt and distribution, transportation and storage for N2.527 billion; excessive payment of impress to the NDDC executive board members-N1.358 billion; engagement of external solicitors in contrast to extant provisions-N1.583 billion; award of contract of emergency contracts without stating the contract prices-N3.002 billion; payments of rent to a legal advocate on a property that belongs to River State Government but released to federal government to house NDDC headquarters-N1.225 billion; appointments of special and personal assistants for members of the Governing Board and payment of their salaries and allowances at government expenses-N1.006 billion, among others.
In its recommendations, the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Anthony Ayine, stated that the sum of N61,468,160,743.03 should be recovered from the 626 contractors in line with the Financial Regulation No. 3104 which provides that under no circumstances should payments be made for job not executed, and any amount involved shall be recovered from the said contractor and shall be blacklisted and referred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for prosecution.
On the N100 billion spent on emergency contracts in 2018, the AGF also observed that the commission concentrated most of its efforts on the award of emergency contract in the period under review while most of the planned/budget and ongoing projects are not given needed priority.
Breakdown of the emergency contracts awarded showed that N58.137 billion was spent in 2017; N20.867 billion was spent in 2016, while N1.689 billion was spent in 2015 respectively, adding that “most of the emergency contracts are executed at an average cost of N500 million and above. None of these emergency contracts can be termed as emergency indeed because there was no evidence that the communities in which they were sited are calling for the projects.