By Our Reporters
Criticisms have continued to trail the recent audit report on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), with financial and public policy experts roundly faulting the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Samuel Ukura over the procedure adopted by his office in arriving at the controversial report, spanning between 2008 and 2012.
One of such financial experts, Mr. Duada Bala, in his reaction, noted that the AGF’s recent disclosure to the Clerk to the National Assembly (CAN), Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa that N183bn meant for the development of the Niger Delta was diverted between 2008 to 2012 “has thrown up questions of procedure, propriety and due diligence in the overall conduct of the AGF in the matter”.
Mr. Bala, who expressed this position in a widely-circulated article published this week, wondered whether “the AGF followed the normal procedure in the audit process, whereby queries, if any, are first presented to the relevant organisation and responses received before a final report?”
While using questions to expose palpable flaws in the audit report on the NDDC, the financial analyst asked: “Is the AGF aware that the NDDC does not write cheques and give same to contractors, but that everything to do with payments is between duly certified contractors and the banks, which must verify the specific details of extent of work before payments?
“Is it true that banks only make payments after the respective contractors have met the specific and specified requirements for every tranch of payment and that it is the banks, not the NDDC that must see to this even in their own interest as responsible corporate citizens?
“Did the Office of the AGF even take the trouble to ascertain the paradigms governing many of the issues it chose to comment upon, and without recourse to those who could have explained the issues?”
Expressing delight that the Director of Finance and Accounts in the NDDC has put a couple of things in proper perspective which questions the credibility of the report, he explained that the new leadership of the commission led by its Managing Director, Bassey Dan-Abia has been able to institutionalize probity and commission hitherto abandoned projects.
Reeling out other achievements of the present NDDC management, Bala said: “the new school hostels in eight universities was one such intervention that made recently took over the media space, in addition to the completion of projects suspended by previous leadership. Road networks rehabilitation and completion in several states have been going hand in hand with employment creation and youth empowerment programmes.
“There are legacy projects, the Partnership for Sustainable Development (PSD) Forum – and much more – under the current leadership. That is why Nigerians must be careful, especially since mischief-makers may use the misinformation and half truths of the audit report to undermine the very impressive strides and reputation of the current focused and hard working NDDC leadership team”.
While describing the Auditor`s report as the best proof that all had not been well with the Commission until very recently, the financial pundit argued that the fact that it covered the timeline of 2008 to 2012 should call for “a distinction between the endemic problems of the NDDC long before its current management, and the performance of this current leadership”.
Executive Director (Finance and Administration) of the NDDC, Henry Ogiri, on his part, accused the Auditor-General of playing to the gallery, pointing out that it was wrong to use deductive accounting as a basis for auditing. “Fraud is not a gamble; established rules have to be used,” Ogiri said in an interview with the African Independent Television (AIT) on Wednesday.
Another staff of the Commission was quoted by an online medium, as saying that the issue of staff advances was not properly handled and interpreted in the report. The unnamed staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, for instance, described the contentious issue of Staff advance as a moving account which they retire or are retired as soon as the task is accomplished. “That is, if I give you money as advance, you are expected to retire on completion of the mission to which the money is attached. Some of these advances have been retired accordingly. All these things have procedures. How can somebody say N1.7 billion could not be accounted for?”
On the indictment of the NDDC over N785 million being a part of N1.1 billion allegedly paid to contractors for the supply of furniture to various schools in Delta State, the same staff of the Commission, identified as someone involved in the project said: “In our records, we have evidence of full delivery and acknowledgment by the school authorities or the beneficiaries. The conclusion is like playing to the gallery. We were not even given any opportunity to respond to this kind of faulty findings before making it public.”
Both Ogiri and a public affairs analyst is based in Abuja, Mr. Sam Akpe agreed that an audit report is a mere query. The ED (F&A) was quoted to have said the audit query which unfortunately has been made public without waiting for the required response, was just an observation by the statutory body; and not a judgement passed on the commission.
In his piece titled, “Auditor -General’s Report: Is NDDC guilty as charged?” Mr. Akpe said: “…whatever the position of NDDC, the auditors have done their job; and so are the self-employed political jobbers who are already calling for the sack of the management. Certainly, there are procedures that must be employed in the execution of the report to ensure that justice is done. For now, it is a mere report; not a judgement.