The acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Kemebradikumo Pondei, has said the commission spent N1.32 billion as ‘COVID-19 relief funds’ for staff, not N1.5 billion as earlier reported in the news.
Mr Pondei said this during Monday’s hearing by the House of Representatives’ NDDC committee on the alleged financial recklessness at the commission.
At a Senate hearing about a fortnight ago, Mr Pondei said regarding the COVID-19 relief fund paid to NDDC staff, “only N1.5 billion was used to take care of staff” despite being paid their salaries.
“The youth were given palliatives to help cushion the effect of the pandemic on the people. The youth were idle and to avoid violence, they were paid,” he added.
“Five million for youths and five million for women and five million for people living with disabilities in each senatorial district,” he said.
However, on Monday, when asked again about the ‘relief funds,’ he said he must have said “1.5 billion” while he was not attentive.
“The amount the IMC used to take care of NDDC staff as COVID-19 palliative was N1.32 billion, not 1.5 billion,” he said to the question posed to him by the coordinator of the panel, who took over after the chairman stepped aside at the start of the hearing over allegations of bias.
Mr Pondei also disagreed with the committee that the commission had extrabudgetary spending by approving that sum for themselves.
Mr Pondei also said N81.5 billion was spent from October 2019 to May 31, this year by the NDDC.
Of this, he explained, the incumbent interim management committee which came in February spent N59.1 billion.
“Of this, N38.6 billion was spent on capital projects,” he said, from which “N35.3 billion was paid to contractors hired by previous administrations.”
He added that N20.5 billion was spent on recurrent expenditure between February 20, 2019, and May 21, this year. “They are a backlog of debt for about three years,” he said.
“Duty tour allowance hasn’t been paid for three years; we cleared it.” Scholarship fee hasn’t been paid since 2016, he said, adding that the NDDC paid N500,000 to each beneficiary.
The hearing was briefly halted after Mr Pondei started to doze as he lowered his head and began to drop on the table.
When he began to convulse some lawmakers and representatives from the NDDC rushed to give him first aid.
Mr Pondei was later taken out of the hearing for medical treatment as the hearing was suspended for 30 minutes.
When the hearing resumed, the Niger Delta minister, Godswill Akpabio, testified before the lawmakers.
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