By Ebi Perekeme
The House of Representatives on Monday vowed not to spear anyone indicted in the ongoing investigation into the N70.495 billion contract scandal by recommending to the Executive that such individual(s) should be barred from holding public office in Nigeria.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Wole Oke issued the threat notice at the resumed investigation into the audit queries issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (oAuGF) against NDDC between 2008 and 2012.
According to the audit report, 1,723 contractors being recycled by the Commission for the execution of projects, failed to report to the site after collecting the sum of N70,495,993,761 mobilization fees within the period under review.
Speaking earlier, NDDC Executive Director Projects, Dr Cairo Ojuogbo who noted that the Interim Management Committee (IMC) was not involved in the controversies surrounding the award of the contracts between 2008 and 2012, adding that: “this query is part of the reasons IMC came to being so that we can explain to the country what has happened in this query.”
While acknowledging that the government is a continuum, Dr Ojuogbo that the contractors were mobilized without work done.
Dr Ojuogbo who affirmed that 90 per cent of the contracts were awarded between 2011 and 2020, also confirmed that there was the excess payment made by the agency more than the value of work done.
The House Committee also demanded from the Acting Managing Director of the agency Prof. Pondei Kemerbrandikumo provide a list of all the 1,723 Contractors and the projects awarded to them between 2011 and 2012.
He also invited bank chief executives for fraudulently raising Advance Payment Guarantees for these contractors.
Chairman of the Committee Hon. Oluwole Oke said that the ex-commissioners and executive directors of NDDC had flouted the provisions of the Appropriation Act 2011 and the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by approving over-inflated contracts and making overpayments to these contractors.
He said, “we won’t allow such behaviour to go unpunished. Some people have intentionally raped and violated the provisions of the Appropriation Act and the 1999 Constitution,” he alleged.
At the hearing, NDDC acting Managing Director, Prof. Kemerbrandikumo affirmed that most of the expenditure in the contracts were made after the late passage of the commission’s annual budgets.
He also admitted that the officials had flouted the laws and demanded that the Committee gives him four weeks to comply with the directives.
Nonetheless, the committee helmsman insisted that the NDDC officials must appear unfailingly within seven days and the list of all the projects and contractors should accompany the officials summoned.
In his remarks, Hon. Oke observed that: “An infraction has occurred and your predecessor, we are aware of the heavy rainfall in your area but that does not go to the fact that you should spend beyond what the law says, the budget is the law.
“That does not give you the power to spend beyond what the law says you should spend. The summary of my position is that we won’t allow such behaviour to go unsanctioned. We appreciate your being truthful, we appreciate your determination for wanting to uphold the content deliver to the people in the heart of NDDC vis-a-vis the provision of the constitution.
“But with the fact that some people have willingly and intentionally violated, raped the provisions of the Constitution, that such thing will not go unsanctioned. It is what other people will just say okay, it is the norm and that if I come to the Parliament they will pat me at the back.
“So it’s on that note that we took cognizant of the that and then we uphold the prayers of the Auditor General.
“Hence we must know these characters that committed this offence. And I also want to suggest that we give them an opportunity to state their own side of the story because fair hearing is a constitutional gift,” he noted
He also directed the NDDC acting Managing Director to furnish the committee with the names of all the Commissioner, Directors and Contractors engaged by the Commission to defend these allegations and give an account of their stewardship during the period under review.
In the same vein, the House Committee on Public Accounts resolved to summon the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas over the sum of N11.5 million house rent queried by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation.
However, the Committee resolved to step the audit query as the lawmakers argued that the representative of the Chief OF Naval Staff, Commander Murtala Ahmed, an Assistant Director of Budget, could not provide answers to the committee’s queries on the utilisation
N11.5 million rent.
The Committee also queried the N30 million allegedly misappropriated out of total sum N1.2 billion appropriated by Ecological Fund Office misappropriated for the canalisation contract of Okoko and Ugbaga rivers in Osogbo, Osun State.
In her response, the Permanent Secretary in the Ecological Fund, Office of the Secretary of the Federation (SGF), Mrs Habiba Lawan explained that the sum of N30 million was paid as compensation to communities whose properties were demolished.
As stated in the audit query, there was no record that the compensation was paid to the communities, hence demanded proof of payments and valid receipts from beneficiaries of the money.
While ruling, Hon. Oke disclosed that the Committee will send a 4-man delegation to verify the authenticity of the claims.