Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday approved the sum of N722.3 million for eight field forensic auditors appointed to audit the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
This is even as President Muhammadu Buhari has approved that the payment for the auditors be sourced directly from the Presidency since the National Assembly is yet to pass the NDDC 2020 appropriation bill before proceeding on its annual vacation.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, who briefed State House Correspondents alongside his counterparts, Information and Culture, and Water Resources, Lai Mohammed and Suleiman Adamu, explained that the auditors will examine 12,000 abandoned projects.
The Minister disclosed that the his ministry presented a memorandum to the FEC for the appointment of eight forensic auditing firms to execute the forensic audit of states under the watch of the NDDC, noting that the memorandum was approved by the FEC.
According to him, a lead forensic auditor had earlier in March been appointed and among the eight newly appointed firms is a foreign firm, Ernst and Young, which he said would be in charge at the headquarter offices of the NDDC in Port Harcourt, to take charge of programmes and activities.
“The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs today presented a memo to the Federal Executive Council and at the end of the deliberations, the memo was approved. The memo is basically the appointment of Field Forensic Auditors to undertake the forensic auditing of the Niger Delta Development Commission and the Field Forensic Auditors are going to be designated to go through the states of the Niger Delta region.”
Akpabio explained that the delay in approving the forensic audit was due to the lack of budgetary provisions, thanked President Buhari for approving for the Presidency to fund it, saying that it will be of immense benefits to the people of the region.
Akpabio said: “By the time I assume office in August 2019, we discovered there was no budget for the NDDC for the year 2019 up to that September. So, we submitted two budgets in November to the National Assembly. And it took quite a while until in April. The budget details were given out to the NDDC in April, to end 31st of May, less than six weeks.
“So, there was a provision of N1.25 billion in the budget of 2019 for the forensic audit exercise. So, basically what delayed it what the absence of budget, not the absence of the will.
“Unfortunately, the National Assembly is right now on leave and the budget of NDDC for 2020 has not been passed. So, to enable us move forward with the exercise and complete it on time, Mr. President graciously directed and approved that the payment for the forensic exercise should be undertaken through the Presidency.”
He continued: “So, the first amount that was approved for the lead forensic auditors was about N318 million and then for this batch of eight field auditors, N722.3 million.
“We expect to complete the field audit in the next one or two weeks to conclude forensic audit procurement by bringing in a further seven to eight of them because of the number of years, 19 years and that will conclude it.
“Earlier, Mr. President had last year approved an estimated amount of N2.5 billion. So everything that we are spending now will come from that estimated sum. Initially, it should have come from the budget of the NDDC but because of the delay and the inability to pass the 2020 budget, the entirety of the amount that will be spent will come from the budget of the presidency.
“That is why there was a delay but we are on course right now.
We thank Mr. President for not just the will but also undertaking to ensure the funding to make sure that this exercise comes to fruition because it will benefit not just the Niger Delta people but it will benefit Nigerians and will also give direction to a lot of agencies of government such as the North East Development Commission.
“So that modalities will be well set out. The job is not just forensic audit alone, you know forensic audit is different from statutory. Foreign audits even audits statutory audits, but this one is done with a view to address the issues of misappropriation, bribery, corruption, fraud or anything of that sort that could have militated against the success of the agency in the last 19 years.
“And also at the end, the involvement Ernst and Young the internationally reocignised forensic auditors will help us to set up modalities to avoid future fraud and also set up governance structure that will not only move the agency forward but will also bring much more benefits to the people of the region.”
The minister while giving further explanation on the forensic auditors said: “Earlier, we had the lead forensic auditor that was approved sometime in March and now we have about eight other forensic auditors who have been approved and they are going to be working in the field in the Niger Delta region.
“One of them is an international group and they will be in charge of programmes and activities at the headquarters and the one is Ernst and Young, and so Council graciously considered the memo and approval was given today.
“This has really kick-started the commencement of evaluation of the abandoned projects of NDDC in the last 19 years estimated almost 12,000 projects. At the end, we will be in the position to know the ones that could be completed, the ones that will be useful, the low hanging fruits that could be plucked for the benefit of the people of the Niger Delta region. And through this exercise, we will know the amount of monies that have gone into the region in the last 19 years and whether the value we have received so far are commensurate with the monies that have entered into NDDC.”
The council also approved a N101 million augmentation for the ongoing Ogbese Dam Project in Ekiti State.
Minister of Water Resources, Adamu explained: “I presented a memo requesting the council to approve the revised estimated total cost of consultancy services for the ongoing Ogbese Dam Project in Ekiti State.
“This project is one of the 116 projects that we inherited. It was started in 2009 and it is one of the projects we prioritized for completion since we conducted an audit of all the ongoing projects in 2016. We have been working on it steadily.
“With the original contract period having expired and having also received approval from RETC for the actual construction of the project’s main work, it was important that we also extend the services of the project’s consultant so that there will be continued and uninterrupted effective supervision of the project.
“So, we got an augmentation of about N101 million and an extension of 24 months in favour of the consultant, Messrs. Geomatics Nig. Ltd. The council approved this memo.”