The last is yet to be heard about the entrenched corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (oAuGF) queried the Commission over N70 billion and secrecy shrouded in the multi-million dollar revenues paid by oil firms into the coffers of the Commission since inception.
The query was part of numerous audit query issued by the oAuGF including the sum of N31.453 billion ‘some payment of 2012 not verified due to non-presentation of payment vouchers and bank mandates; non-remittance of N29 billion before 2008; N5.69 billion payment vouchers from Access Bank Account Number 0015078045 not presented for audit, and payments by unrecognized oil companies into the Commission’s final accounts to the tune of N3,280,818,832, among others.
Other audit queries include the unexplainable transfer of N3.118 billion to an undisclosed Union Bank account, dormant fixed deposit account and current account in enterprise Bank with the sum of N68.432 million, N1.4 billion in an abandoned credit and entrepreneurship development scheme fund distributed among participating banks (non-agricultural component); unaccounted fixed deposit account; N92 million contract awarded for services not required, N309 million withheld by banks that failed to implement NDDC credit and entrepreneurship development scheme and N1.546 billion payment for the broadcast of NDDC Today Programme.
On the N3.280 billion audit query paid by ‘Unrecognised oil companies into its final accounts, the Commission explained that: “All contributions received from the oil companies were paid directly into our Union Bank account in Port Harcourt and the offshore account in the United Kingdom and in recent years, very few were remitted into the First Bank Port Harcourt Account and the offshore account in the United Kingdom. These transactions were done without any human interference from NDDC, hence the possibility of manipulation or fraud is very remote.”
In its response, as contained in the 60-page response document to the oAuGF’s audit queries seen by newsmen, the Commission to the N936,770,112.83 over-payment on VAT before 2008, argued that VAT on all payments due to contractors and consultants on projects, supplies and others service is calculated and paid to the relevant tax authorities at the end of each month. It is a deduction from the contractor’s bill unless specified in the bill of quantities or supplier’s invoice.
“It is an addition to project costs and hence overpayment to contractors will not arise in any way because of VAT.
The FIRS recently concluded a tax audit on the Commission for the affected periods and re-computed our total liability as N8,798,494,924.29, of this amount the Commission agreed with FIRS to an instalment payment and we have commenced by paying the first instalment of N1 billion.”
In response to one of the numerous Auditor’s queries on the transfer of the sum of N514.847 million to FDO Consultants from the Commission’s account with Access Bank Account No: 0015078045 between 2008 and 2012, the Commission explained that: “the payment was in respect of consultancy fees paid on tax savings as a result of rigorous negotiations and professional arguments to reduce tax liabilities arisen from VAT and Withholding Tax by over N10.7 billion which could have depleted the fund of the Commission based on technical issues raised by Federal Inland Revenue Services.”
According to the ‘financial records from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) presented to the Ad-hoc Committee which investigated the operations of the NDDC in 2019, total sum of N738.026 billion has so far been released to Niger Delta Development Commission over the past 19 years for implementation of projects in the nine oil-producing states.
However, Federal Government and oil companies as at 2018 owe the Commission, whooping sums of N2.787 trillion and $485.336 million.
It, however, stated that the actual amount of money paid through Development Partners and other multinational companies paid directly to the Commission cannot be ascertained by all the parties including the office of the Accountant General and Auditor General of the Federation for the period under review.
On a yearly basis, the scandal-ridden Commission gets budgetary allocation from the First Line Charge of at least N45 billion, and additional budgetary allocation worth over N300 billion annually. For example, the National Assembly approved the sum of N346.388 billion for the 2019 fiscal year.
Out of the amount, the sum of N22.338 billion was for Personnel Expenditure, the sum of N13.466 billion only, is for overhead Expenditure while the sum of N4.083 billion was for Internal Capital Expenditure. Also, the sum of N306.500 billion was for Development Projects for the Service of the NDDC. As at December 2018, the aggregate revenue inflow recorded by the Commission was N291.47 billion.
Recall that the House Committee on NDDC recently initiated a probe into the N81.5 billion allegedly misappropriated by the NDDC management in the 2019 Appropriation Act, which was passed in February 2019 and elapsed on the 31st May 2019.
The incumbent acting NDDC managing Director, Prof. Pondei while responding to questions from the lawmakers disclosed the total sum of N72 billion between February and June 2020.
When asked to provide the budget line for the N1.5 billion spent on COVID-19, Prof. Kemerbrandikumo noted that the sum of N1.32 billion was spent on COVID-19.
He also confirmed that out of the total sum of N2.5 billion approved for the IMC by Federal Government.
According to him, out of the N2.5 billion, the sum of N1.5 billion was approved for the NDDC Management out of which the sum of N350 million was approved for forensic auditors, N536 million paid to Safe Life Campaign, and paid another N600 million to a media consultancy firm to locate the abandoned projects across the NDDC states.
In response to the NDDC Managing Director’s submission, the Committee alleged that such action tantamount to extra-budgetary expenditure in contravention of extant financial laws.
He further explained that the sum of N34 billion was remitted by the Federal Government to the NDDC coffers.
According to him, out of the N81.5 billion, the sum of N38.6 billion as expended on capital projects out of which N33.5 billion outstanding was paid to contractors.
In addition, the sum of N20.5 billion was spent on recurrent expenditure, including 3 years outstanding Duty Tour Allowance, hotel bills including N30 million owed Transcorp Hilton hotel, N26 million outstanding electricity bill, N500,000 scholarship award to each of the beneficiaries who have been deprived for some years.
While responding to allegations on the scholarship awarded to himself and Dr Cairo Ojuogbo, he explained the fund was earmarked as estacode to enable them to travel to the Universities where the students are studying overseas.
Meanwhile, the Committee requested for the details of the NDDC’s 2019 Appropriation Act which was implemented by the commission.