THE Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said President Muhammadu Buhari desired completion of the ongoing forensic audit before the inauguration of the commission’s board.
He also directed that henceforth, all contracts awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) must be verified before payments are made.
The minister said that all contract papers for payment must be submitted to Field Forensic Auditors for verification before NDDC can pay.
The minister also set July ending as the deadline for the conclusion of the forensic audit ordered by Buhari.
Akpabio spoke while inaugurating the physical verification phase of the forensic audit of the NDDC during the Strategic Capacity Building workshop of the Commission in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Akpabio in a statement signed by the Director, Corporate Affairs, NDDC, Dr. Ibitoye Abosede, said the 16 field auditors would now begin to identify and verify the projects across the Niger Delta region.
He wondered why some people would be peddling rumours that the forensic audit had derailed, adding that detractors falsely claimed the forensic audit was being used as a ploy to continue with the NDDC interim administration.
Akpabio said: “It is the considered position of President Muhammadu Buhari that for us to have a properly constituted board for the NDDC, we should first take a look at what has happened to the Commission since inception.
“There was nothing our detractors have not done to stop the forensic audit and this has led some people to be left wondering if the forensic audit has been aborted.”
Akpabio also observed that budgetary delays affected the progress of the forensic exercise, prompting Buhari to intervene to save the situation.
He said: “The President is resolute that he cannot leave the Niger Delta and the NDDC the way he met it. As a demonstration of this commitment, he is funding the forensic audit from the budget of the Presidency.”
The minister said that the security component of the audit exercise was important because of the safety issues in the Niger Delta region.
“We decided to start the audit exercise from the NDDC headquarters, while security arrangements were being firmed up. The field visit is a critical next step, after which we go into the office to produce the reports”, he said.
Akpabio stressed that the physical verification was a serious exercise because the results could lead to the prosecution of the affected contractors, especially those that abandoned their contracts.
In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr. Babayo Ardo, said that the inauguration of the physical verification phase was a milestone in the quest to reposition the NDDC for effective service delivery.
He said: “The audit of the headquarters has been completed. So, we are now starting the second phase of the exercise. We will go round all the nine states to inspect the over 12,000 projects that have been identified by the NDDC.”
Also, the NDDC Interim Administrator, Mr. Efiong Akwa, emphasised that the forensic audit was a serious and deliberate exercise which made it necessary for the physical inspection of project sites in the nine states of the Niger Delta region.
He said that wherever the over 12,000 projects were located, the committee had been mandated to visit them, noting that they had the capacity to move around and ensure that the verification was done properly.
Akwa said that a formidable security team had been put together to escort the committee members and ensure their security.
Speaking at the occasion, the Lead Forensic Auditor, Mr. Joshua Basiru, observed that President Buhari ordered the forensic audit of the Commission in 2019 as a result of the huge gap between resources invested and the infrastructural, human and economic development recorded by the commission.
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