OrderPaperToday – The Senate Committee on Niger Delta said it has uncovered fraud in the award and payments of contracts to the tune of about N15 billion by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
In one instance, the commission paid the sum of N3.9 billion for a non-existing contract in Ondo State; and in another in Bayelsa state, projects amounting to over N10.8 billion were awarded and payments made with the jobs abandoned.
The committee’s chairman, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP, Delta) disclosed these to journalists in Uyo weekend during the committee’s oversight of NDDC projects in parts of the Niger Delta.
Apparently angered by the alleged fraud, Nwabaoshi said his committee would undertake a holistic investigation of the commission’s activities since 2000 and called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to beam its searchlight on the NDDC in order to unravel those culpable and retrieve public funds from the fraudulent contractors.
Nwabaoshi said apart from the discoveries in Ondo and Bayelsa States, his committee generally discovered that the NDDC paid several billions of naira to non-existing contractors for unidentifiable projects across other states of the region.
He said the discoveries were made through the committe’s independent investigation as officials of the NDDC hid the projects and the amounts from it during the 2016 budget defence.
”There is a certain project where they (NDDC) had paid N3.9 billion, in Ondo State and nothing has been done,” he said, adding: “And when they were making their reports, they did not include some of those projects paid and for which were never executed at all. We discovered that on our own through personal investigation and calls and the NDDC has admitted it, that they paid the amount.
“In Bayelsa alone, the projects where they awarded and paid money and people handling them did not execute and rather abandoned them, are worth over N10.8 billion.
“This one is based on the document they have given to us. So when we went through the document state by state, we were able to see where they had paid money, the least was in Edo State where N950 million abandoned project was seen.”
He further revealed that the Ondo project was on supposed supply of anti-retroviral drugs bought for victims of HIV which were not delivered to the end users until they were found to have expired.
Nwabaoshi stated: “That is wasting of public fund. You complain that there is no money, you embark on some nasty projects only to satisfy your personal interest and ego.
“We are going to carry out a holistic investigation, we are going to investigate the accounts of the NDDC now, we have employed consultants to look into their books.
“If they don’t refund the money, when we are writing our report, we will make our recommendations to the Senate and the Senate will consider those recommendations and approve them.
“And if there are some people who are culpable of what they have done, the Senate would refer their findings to the appropriate authorities to take immediate action.
“All I can assure you is that we are not only going to get to the contractors, we are going to unveil the people behind the companies and find out those behind the contracts not completed.
“Nobody is taking any job and completing it, you can give your job to your boyfriend, to your girlfriend, to your wife and to your husband, that is not our point. What matters to us is, does the person have the capacity, has the person performed? We are not interested in who is getting the job, I don’t care about that.
“If you are given a job, you do it but where you think that you are too big, then don’t take jobs. If I tell you some of the companies that we have lifted their veils now, and when you see the people behind these companies, you would laugh, you will shake.
“And if you see also some of these people who are talking, for example, how can a board says somebody did a nasty job and you have paid the person 100 percent of the job?
“If the person did a nasty job and you are convinced that he did a nasty job, why paying him 100 percent and even five percent of his retention? Retention which is supposed to come after a period of time after you have come to inspect the job to make sure the project completion is still within the agreed period of completion has been paid! Who is deceiving who here? There is connivance.
“I have already said it, that we have consultants, our consultants are both auditors and chartered accountants, it’s a firm. They are going to enter their books now, to see what and what had happened. You cannot sit in Abuja and then one man would say do this so and so billion job. What you hear here is billion, billion and billion.”
The committee chairman also called on EFCC not only to immediately arrest but also prosecute all those found culpable in the alleged fraudulent contracts and recover all the money running into several billions of naira allegedly stolen from the commission since inception.
He added: “We have said that a holistic investigation of the commission from the 2000 will start soon. The question is nobody is here to witch-hunt anybody. For the projects that are completed, we will give our recommendations and even recommend them for further jobs from the NDDC. I think we have only seen two completed jobs so far since we came here, all others are abandoned ones.”