Samuel UkuraStaff of the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, AGF, have expressed fears that their lives are in danger over the alleged violent way Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has reacted to the auditor’s report which indicted the commission for diverting N183.7 billion meant for the development of South-South region.
The staff fear that their safety may not be guaranteed should they embark on any official function in any of the Niger Delta states because of the violent way youths from the area usually conduct themselves, especially on sensitive matters which affect them.
It would be recalled that the Auditor General of the Federation, AGF, Mr. Samuel Tyonongo Ukura, while submitting the report on the activities and programmes of NDDC from 2008 to 2012 to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa in Abuja, had said recently that funds meant for the development of Niger Delta, were diverted for other programmes.
Though management of the office said it stands by the auditors’ report, it however, expressed fear in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja over the weekend that the NDDC’s ‘violent reaction’ to the report, might hinder future exercise in the commission.
“The way and manner NDDC has violently reacted to the report has put the-would-be staffs of Office of the Auditor General for the Federation, who are to carry out subsequent periodic checks on the corporation, in fear, considering the volatile nature of the Niger Delta region,” the statement issued by the Head of Media and Public Relations Unit of the AGF Office, Olawumi Ogunmosunle said.
A breakdown of the special periodic checks on NDDC during the period under review shows that N70.4 billion was paid as mobilisation to various contractors, who never reported to site, while N90.4 billion was the extra-budgetary expenditure for head and sub-heads without approval by the legal authorities.
It also said N10 billion was tax deductions without evidence of remittance to the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS; N5.8 billion was payment to contractors for projects not executed, stalled or abandoned, while N1.2 billion was undeducted taxes from contractors.
The statement, however, said that it took NDDC 16 months to grant the office permission to commence the periodic checks beginning from December 9, 2011 to May 6, 2013.
It added that it took another 16 months and several reminders to the NDDC with effect from April 24, 2014 to August 12, 2015 before the final report was submitted to the National Assembly.
“It may interest the reading publics to know that at the time of this press release, the NDDC is yet to respond to the Special Periodic Checks”, the statement disclosed.
“Ordinarily, the management of the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation would not have considered it worthy to join issues with the former.
“Nevertheless, the office makes bold its statement public, based on the negative sentiments occasioned by the NDDC’s condemnation of the special periodic checks in various media, calculated to demean the efficacy of the constitutional mandate carried out by the office of the Auditor General for the Federation”, it said.
The statement added, “It is pertinent to state unequivocally that the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation has a constitutional mandate to submit its reports to the National Assembly and in doing so, due process are usually followed.
“It is therefore important to let the NDDC and the public know that the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation stands by the Special Periodic Checks on the NDDC and its contents.
“However, any person or corporate organisation that is not satisfied with the contents of the Special Report has opportunity to defend itself before the Public Accounts Committees, PACs, of the National Assembly”, it stated.
Part of the statement further reads, “On December 9, 2011 a letter of request to conduct a periodic exercise of the Commission with Ref. No. 764/90/CONF/VOL.II/94 was sent by the Office.
“The exercise could not commence as a result of NDDC’s refusal to respond to the request. On March 15, 2012, another letter was written on the same subject matter, reminding same of the need to allow Audit staff to conduct the exercise.
“In the same vein, on April 19, 2013, another letter with Ref. No. 764/90/CONF/VOL.II/96 was written to NDDC stating that their refusal of the exercise was a breach of the Office constitutional responsibilities. It was at that point that the team was reluctantly allowed to commence the assignment on May 6, 2013.
“From the foregoing, it is clear that it took the Office 16 months to be allowed to commence the said exercise.
“The conduct of the periodic checks, which involved examination of records and physical verification of projects, took seven months to be completed.
“The delay in inspect of timely completion of the exercise was caused by the NDDC’s outright restriction of access to vital documents and untimely provision of other documents that were finally accessed by the Auditors.
“The inspection of projects after the paper work by the Auditors was jointly conducted with NDDC Engineers. Therefore, the outcome of the inspection, which reflected in our Report, should not be a surprise to NDDC since their Engineers were expected to have briefed their Management after the audit inspections.
On April 24, 2014, the inspection report was forwarded to NDDC through our letter Ref. No. 764/90/CONF/VOL.II/99 in which they were given 30 days within which to respond, otherwise the Report which was acknowledged by you will be duly finalized by the Office.