By Henry Umoru & Tordue Salem
PORT HARCOURT—The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, yesterday, rebuked the acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Prof. Kemerbrandikumo Pondei, over N90.4billion extra-budgetary expenditure by the commission between 2009 to 2011.
The committee, which is investigating audit queries issued to Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, AuGF, also grilled Pondei over 150 NDDC abandoned projects in the Niger Delta, after payment had been made to the contractors.
The committee said the extra-budgetary expenditure was a violation of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and would not be allowed to go unpunished.
The lawmakers also directed the NDDC to furnish the committee with the details of affected contractors, so that they can be summoned to explain their roles in the abandoned projects.
The AuGF in his query had noted that the NDDC paid N23.215 billion to contractors between 2008 to 2012, for 150 projects, which have now been stalled.
“Analysis of the NDDC contracts profile reveals that there are a total number of 150 stalled projects scattered all over the region as recorded by the project management department. The sum of N23.215billion has so far be paid to the contractors of these projects,” the audit query stated.
It added that there was also N5billion excess payment for 77 of the projects, while there was no effort by the commission to recover the money.
Shortly, before the commencement of yesterday’s hearing, NDDC Executive Director in charge of Projects, Cairo Ojougboh had said that he needed to put on record that the audit query had nothing to do with the IMC of the commission.
Ojougboh noted that the IMC does not know anything in relation to the issues that necessitated the audit query.
However, the committee chairman, Wole Oke, said since the IMC has taken over both the assets and liabilities of the interventionist agency, it behooves on the acting managing director to defend the query.
In his response, the NDDC boss admitted that there were actually cases of extra-budgetary expenditure by the commission in the years under review. Regardless, he explained that the extra-budgetary expenditure arose because of late passage of the agency’s budgets in the years under review.
Pondei while responding to the query on the 150 abandoned projects, said the NDDC was making efforts to recover the funds from the various contractors through the banks that raised Advanced Project Guarantees, APG, for them.
Regardless, the lawmakers said documents indicate that there are no current efforts by the NDDC to recover the money from the contractors, as some of the letters to banks were written in 2015.
Consequently, the committee directed the NDDC to furnish it with the details of all banks that gave APG to the contractors, the details of the projects, as well as the details of all the past Executive Directors of the commission within the period.
Meanwhile, the IMC could not honour a Senate Committee hearing, as its members were with the Reps till late evening of yesterday.