The House of Representatives is investigating why mobilisation fees worth N70.5 billion was paid by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to 1,773 contractors, without the contractors reporting to sites.
In a series of financial queries, about 219, raised by the office of the auditor-general of the federation, the payments were said to have been made between 2008 and 2012.
The auditor-general also alleged that 90 per cent of the contractors “collected the mandatory mobilisation fees without reporting to site between 2011 and 2012,” for contracts with a gestation period of six months.
The query further alleged that 60 per cent of the contractors claimed they have completed the projects, but the claims could not be verified.
The house public accounts committee at its hearing on NDDC which began Friday had directed the acting managing director of the NDDC, Kemebrandikumo Pondei, to tender details of the projects and a list of defaulting contractors.
This, Mr Pondei was also told, should be done alongside the statements of account showing the funds recovered from the contractors, Punch newspapers reported.
This, the committee said, was due to the claim made by the director of internal audit, Itu Ubi, that only N19 billion had yet to be recovered from the contractors.
At its hearing on Monday, Mr Ubi, who also represented the NDDC chief, explained that the funds were released to the banks that guaranteed the contractors, Punch reported.
He added that some funds had been recovered from some of the errant contractors, leaving the balance of N19 billion yet to be recovered as against the N70 billion stated in the audit queries.
Mr Ubi then said that some of the contractors were unable to complete the projects due to ‘insecurity’.
But the chairman of the committee, Wole Oke, said the NDDC failed to address the various red flags raised in the audit queries between 2008 and 2012 by the auditor-general.
“What the auditor-general did was to invoke Section 4 of the audit act to discover the anomalies in the NDDC,” he said.
“The main issue is whether the interim management committee (of the NDDC) has rendered the accounts up to 2018. We stopped at 2018 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But clearly, there are issues here and there.”
To clear the issues, the committee asked the NDDC management to provide the letters of award of all the contracts and the commission’s statements of account showing the refunds.
For many months now, the NDDC has been in eye of the storm over alleged corruption allegations, counter-allegations, and leadership tussle.
It has also clashed with members of the parliament who are trying to unravel its management approaches. A top NDDC staffer recently asked the lawmakers allow the commission function ‘in peace’ even as she subtly accused them of trying to manipulate it to their advantage.
Established with the mandate to bridge the infrastructural gaps in Nigeria’s oil-rich delta region, some, including the Niger Delta minister, Goodwill Akpabio, has described the commission as a cash cow.
The president had ordered that a forensic audit by carried out on the commission’s finances, but not so much has been heard from the probe as the commission has been enmeshed in several controversies.