By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
The decision of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to hand over operational vehicles to firms conducting the commission’s forensic audit has drawn the ire of a group of activists from the region.
The NDDC Acting Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, on Thursday handed over additional tools, including 10 Hilux vehicles and five buses, to the auditors at the new permanent headquarters of the Commission in Port Harcourt.
Pondei stressed that the forensic audit was not a witch-hunt to any individual or group, insisting that when concluded, it would reposition the commission.
Pondei said: “The forensic audit was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to look into the activities of NDDC from inception 20 years ago to August 2019. It is on that note that the lead forensic consultant was appointed and 16 field forensic auditors procured to handle the process.
“We are here to hand over more tools to the auditors to assist them in the ongoing forensic audit of the commission.
“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.”
But the activists under the auspices of Niger Delta Rights Advocates (NDRA) queried the purchase of operational vehicles for auditors who had been hired and paid by the commission.
Spokesperson for NDDC, Darlington Nwauju, noted that in February 2020, the Federal Executive Coumcil (FEC) approved N318 million for the lead consultant (Messrs Olumuyiwa Basiru).
He said in August 2020, another N722 million was approved by the FG for eight field auditors to support the lead consultant besides the N641 million paid to Clearpoint Communications to help the NDDC identify its own projects.
He said: “Our attention has been drawn to the handover of 16 operational vehicles to the lead forensic auditor appointed by the NDDC and 15 other sub-auditors.
“We deem this as disturbing, given the fact that the forensic audit remains a defining moment in the history of the Niger Delta, and is capable of causing a positive turnaround in the operational capability and delivery capacity of the interventionist agency.
“The NDRA is sad to note that more than 12 months after Mr. President ordered the forensic audit of the NDDC, the whole process has become increasingly opaque, suspicious and doubtful.
“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.”