The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved N722.3m as fees for eight field forensic auditors reviewing projects handled by the Niger Delta Development Commission.
The auditors will audit 12,000 projects, which have already been abandoned by the commission.
However, the Presidency will bear the cost in the interim, pending the passage of the 2020 budget of the NDDC by the National Assembly.
The decisions were taken at Wednesday’s virtual FEC meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.
As the meeting rose, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; and the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, briefed State House Correspondents on the outcome of deliberations.
Akpabio mentioned a foreign firm, Ernst and Young, as one of the eight audit firms, saying that it would take charge of the commission’s head office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as the audit progressed.
He explained that the forensic audit was delayed mainly due to lack of funds, but praised Buhari for the nod given to the Presidency to provide funding in the interim.
Akpabio stated, “By the time I assumed office in August 2019, we discovered there was no budget for the NDDC for the year 2019 up to that September. So, we submitted two budgets in November to the National Assembly. And it took quite a while until in April. The budget details were given out to the NDDC in April, to end 31st of May, less than six weeks.
“So, there was a provision of N1.25 billion in the budget of 2019 for the forensic audit exercise. So, basically what delayed it what the absence of budget, not the absence of the will.
“Unfortunately, the National Assembly is right now on leave and the budget of NDDC for 2020 has not been passed. So, to enable us move forward with the exercise and complete it on time, Mr President graciously directed and approved that the payment for the forensic exercise should be undertaken through the Presidency.”
The minister who gave other details of the funding, added, “The first amount that was approved for the lead forensic auditors was about N318m and then for this batch of eight field auditors, N722.3m.
“We expect to complete the field audit in the next one or two weeks to conclude forensic audit procurement by bringing in a further seven to eight of them because of the number of years, 19 years and that will conclude it.
“Earlier, Mr President had last year approved an estimated amount of N2.5bbn. So everything that we are spending now will come from that estimated sum. Initially, it should have come from the budget of the NDDC but because of the delay and the inability to pass the 2020 budget, the entirety of the amount that will be spent will come from the budget of the presidency.
“That is why there was a delay but we are on course right now. We thank Mr. President for not just the will but also undertaking to ensure the funding to make sure that this exercise comes to fruition because it will benefit not just the Niger Delta people but it will benefit Nigerians and will also give direction to a lot of agencies of government such as the North East Development Commission.”
Another approval made by the council was N101m to augment the Ogbese Dam Project in Ekiti State.
Speaking on the water project, Adamu said, “I presented a memo requesting the council to approve the revised estimated total cost of consultancy services for the ongoing Ogbese Dam Project in Ekiti State.
“This project is one of the 116 projects that we inherited. It was started in 2009 and it is one of the projects we prioritised for completion since we conducted an audit of all the ongoing projects in 2016. We have been working on it steadily.
“With the original contract period having expired and having also received approval from RETC for the actual construction of the project’s main work, it was important that we also extend the services of the project’s consultant so that there will be continued and uninterrupted effective supervision of the project.”