By Felix Khanoba
The Civil Society Coalition on Audit in Nigeria (CSCAN) has expressed concerns over the inability of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to account for N15 billion from 115 contracts awarded by the Commission.
CSCAN said it has physically verified 115 projects out of the 176 NDDC contracts highlighted in its February 2021 analysis of Compliance Audit Reports on the Commission published by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation.
It revealed that most of the projects were either completely abandoned or poorly implemented.
The coalition, which presented a 293-page report on its findings during a press briefing on Wednesday in Abuja, had in February 2021 claimed that NDDC was unable to account for N90.9 billion on 176 contracts awarded between 2008 and 2018.
It said its assessment of projects focused only on the Auditor-General compliance audit, which is different from the forensic audit of NDDC projects that was ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Olusegun Elemo — Executive Director at Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI) said “within the last six months (March — August 2021), our Coalition monitored 15 priority projects out of 176 contracts highlighted in our review and analysis of Compliance Audit Reports of the Auditor-General for the Federation on NDDC.
” Fiscal performance of the 115 projects shows that contracts awarded amounted to N98.5 billion, payments to contractors totaled N61.8 billion while the sum of N15.3 billion is yet to be accounted for.
” Six (6) of these projects are on education, one (1) related to health, four (4) on water, seventy-four (74) on road infrastructure while twenty-nine (29) of the projects fell within other categories.
“However, our Independent Findings on these 115 projects revealed that 46 of the projects had been executed, 12 of them executed with irregularities, 2 were partially executed, 4 projects were executed by other agencies, 3 projects not executed at all, 19 of the projects were poorly implemented, 11 are still abandoned while 18 of the projects had no trackable location.”
On his part, the Principal Lead of BudgIT Foundation — Gabriel Okeowo said “with the forensic audit ordered by President Buhari now concluded and summary report indicating over 13,700 poorly executed and unverified projects by NDDC despite N6 trillion allocation it received from 2001 to 2019, it will be in the interest of the people of Niger Delta and by extension Nigeria for the federal government led by President Buhari to make the full report of the forensic audit exercise public and religiously implement recommended sanctions and reforms to reposition the NDDC for improved performance.
Also speaking, Zainab Haruna — Programme Director for Step Up Nigeria urged the National Assembly through its Committees on Public Accounts and anti-corruption agencies to look at the findings contained in the two Compliance Audit Reports published by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation as well as the Independent Findings report being presented by the coalition to ensure that those responsible for abusing extant laws that set up NDDC to mismanage public funds allocated to the Commission are made to account for all the monies.
Joshua Olufemi of Dataphyte called on relevant law enforcement agencies to leverage on the coalition’s report and ensure those found culpable are brought to book while Odeh Friday – Country Director Accountability Lab said Nigeria is in a complicated financial corner and called for a promulgation of new audit law that will ensure prudent utilisation of government funds.
He said a new audit law is key to “good public governance and strengthening accountability mechanisms in government MDAs. Such that, this can drastically reduce the mismanagement of Nigeria’s lean resources and improve the trust level between citizens and the government in open governance and transparency.”
The AUTHORITY reports that CSCAN includes Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), Budg1T Foundation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Dataphyte, Step Up Nigeria, Accountability Lab Nigeria, Centre for Health, Equity and Justice (CEHEJ), Basic Rights Watch, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), and other CSOs and media executives in Nigeria.