…Defends budget Wednesday
By Ebi Perekeme
The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has inaugurated two new committees for contract documentation and project assessment as a follow up to the just concluded work of the Contract Verification Committee and a prelude to the forensic audit.
Speaking during the inauguration at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, Charles Obi Odili, Director, Corporate Affairs in a statement Feb. 7, said the Acting Managing Director, Gbene Dr. Joi Nunieh, disclosed that the committees would start work next week, even as the commission prepares to defend its budget before the Senate on Wednesday.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer said that the Contract Documentation Committee, headed by the Director, Planning Research and Statistics/Management Information Systems, Dr. Linus Ogbalubi, would authenticate all the documents submitted by contractors and consultants, while the Project Assessment Committee, headed by the Director Project Monitoring and Supervision, Engr. Dr. Emmanuel Audu-Ohwavborua, would visit the various sites to verify contractors’ claims.
Nunieh said: “The just concluded verification exercise has been an eye opener for us. On Monday, we will address a press conference for a full briefing on the reports from the exercise. We owe Nigerians, especially Mr. President, a duty to give full details of what came out of the contract verification. That report will show Nigerians that we are truly determined to refocus the NDDC to properly develop the Niger Delta region.
“A lot have been revealed as a result of the verification exercise. Some contract award letters were found to be fake and some of the companies were not registered. Some were registered after they had been given the contracts.
“Some of the companies do not have the requirements prescribed in the Public Procurement Act to handle such projects. We also found that some individuals have 50 to 100 different award letters under different names.”
The NDDC boss noted that only few executives of the companies showed up for the verification exercise, stating that contractors and consultants that failed to show up for the verification should not expect the commission to visit their sites for project assessment.
She declared: “From next week, the Project Assessment Committee will begin to visit project sites to check the veracity of the claims of the contractors and consultants.”
Nunieh said that those that executed their contracts well had nothing to fear as they deserved to be paid, adding: “I want to reiterate that not all contractors are fraudulent. There are contractors who did well but it is a pity everyone is getting agitated. I have not given anyone a contract, I have not collected one naira from any contractor with the promise of payment.”
She insisted: “We will do the right thing in the interest of all the communities and while visiting the project sites, we will work with the Community Development Committees, CDCs, of the various communities and the villagers will be there to testify that the roads are well done.
“Please, do not bother to pay any money to members of the committee. Do not induce them in anyway during the course of this exercise and any member of the committee that asks for money should be reported to the police.
“The entire process of assessment is free. No one is allowed to take money from any contractor to facilitate their coming to carry out the assessments. If you try to induce members, they may not visit your site.”
Nunieh affirmed that the NDDC was sending “very credible directors,” certified engineers and quantity surveyors recognized by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, (COREN) and the Quantity Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (QSRBN). According to her: “We are including quantity surveyors because, most of the award letters, especially those for the emergency projects, were issued without stating the contract sums.”
She added: “We have a situation where all manner of people have our Interim Payment Certificates, IPCs. That is not good at all, so, anyone that is going out to the various communities must ensure that things are well done. We call on the CDCs to stand up to defend the projects in their communities.
“Please, be at the sites when our teams come. Do not be aggressive, receive them well. I want to advise all the young boys that are being used to stage protests, telling us to pay people who didn’t execute their contracts in the communities, to desist.”
Nunieh called for patience, noting that the Project Assessment Committee had been charged to do their work quickly so that payments could commence, adding: “Those who have been owed between one million and 20 million naira will be paid immediately, once we verify the debts and as soon as the budget is passed.”
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer thanked members of the National Assembly for their encouragement and insistence on prudence in the affairs of the Niger Delta region. She noted: “The Senate has invited the NDDC to defend its budget on Wednesday, next week. I am happy to say that the people of the Niger Delta will begin to see the activities of the NDDC. Hopefully, we will make a good case in defending the budget.
“I thank the leadership of the Senate for showing commitment to the development of the Niger Delta region. I assure them that we will use every kobo budgeted prudently and wisely.”
The Chairman of the Project Assessment Committee, Engr. Audu-Ohwavborua, assured the NDDC Acting Managing Director that the committees would carry out their assignments as honestly and diligently as possible. He said: “There is always a time to say enough is enough and that time has come for the NDDC. We are committed to re-writing the story of the NDDC.
In his own remarks, the Chairman of the Documentation Committee Dr Ogbalubi, thanked the NDDC boss for giving them the opportunity to serve the Commission. According to him “It is a new beginning for the Commission and we will ensure that we carry out the assignment dutifully and timeously.”