* But group kicks, wonders why NDDC should give vehicles after N1.04Bn cash
The 16 forensic auditors probing into contracts in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) yesterday Thursday, November 12, 2020, in Port Harcourt, took charge of 16 vehicles to begin the field duty in the rugged terrain of the Niger Delta.
The auditors were expected to deliver report before December 2020 but crisis and turbulence in the National Assembly through probes delayed the work of the team, until President Muhammadu Buhari pput his feet down and the work resumed.
Now, the NDDC has handed over what they call ‘additional working tools’ to the lead consultants and 16 field forensic auditors involved in the audit of the Commission to facilitate the exercise.
A group, the Niger Delta Rights Advocacy (NDRA) has however kicked against the purchase of 16 vehicles, saying it was wrong to get involved in heavy spending on the auditors after pumping N1.04Bn to them.
The NDDC Acting Managing Director, professor of virology, Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, while handing over the vehicles, (10 Hilux vehicles and five buses) to the auditors at the new permanent headquarters of the Commission in Port Harcourt, stressed that the forensic audit was not meant to witch-hunt any individual or group.
The NDDC boss said the exercise would make the commission more effective and transparent, stating: “We hope that at the end of the day, the forensic audit will unravel a lot of things that have gone wrong in the Commission. It is not a witch-hunting process, but just for us to truly know the state of things and recommend a way forward and make sure that the Commission delivers on its core mandate.”
In his remarks, the Acting Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Effiong Akwa, stated that the exercise would advance the cause of the Niger Delta region.
He thanked President Buhari and the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, for their roles in setting up the forensic audit, noting that it would take the Niger Delta region a step further in terms of development.
The Managing Partner of the lead consultants, Olumuyiwa Basiru & Co, Joshua Bashiru, said the audit was in fulfillment of the directive of the President, noting that the 16 audit firms would be probing the finances, contracts and projects and programmes executed by the NDDC since 2000.
Also speaking, the Principal Consultant, Kabiru Ahmed, said the audit exercise was a turning point in the quest to find out what had gone wrong in the Commission since its inception.
Ahmed explained that the auditors were at the NDDC to introduce the field forensic auditors involved in the process and update the management on the progress of the forensic exercise so far. “We will meet with NDDC state directors and departmental directors to enable the auditors to understand how the various units work,” he said.
Reacting, spokesperson of NDRA, Darlington Nwauju, said the gift of vehicles was disturbing news. “The NDRA is sad to note that more than 12months after Mr President ordered the forensic audit of the NDDC, the whole process has become increasingly opaque, suspicious and doubtful.
“Recall that in February 2020, the FEC approved #318million for the lead consultant (Messrs Olumuyiwa Basiru), in August 2020 another N722million was approved by the FG for eight field auditors to support the lead consultant.” He said there was also N641million paid to a consultant to help the NDDC identify the locations and projects involved.
“We are appalled that the NDDC would embark on purchasing operational vehicles for auditors who should be working independent of the apron strings of the management. This calls to question the sincerity of purpose and the integrity of the entire process. If vehicles could be purchased, it means that offices could also be hired for the auditors in the name of providing a conducive working environment.
“Since perception counts in the discharge of public service, we query the purpose for the purchase of these vehicles and consider it inappropriate and therefore, falls short of internationally acceptable benchmark for doing a thorough forensic audit of the operations of an Agency so blatantly blighted with the scourge of corruption.”