The much talked about forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) moved some steps further on Thursday as the commission handed over to the auditors, files containing documents of contracts it awarded between 2001 and 2019.
The auditors would be looking into volumes of documents, including contract award papers, payment vouchers, job-completion certification, for possible detection of official corruption and other forms of abuse.
The auditors would try to find out if the status of the NDDC projects around the communities in the Niger Delta states correspond with the money taken out for them.
There have been apprehensions over the NDDC forensic audit which was ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari, with some people making unsubstantiated claims that the exercise is a witch-hunt.
Also, the interim management of NDDC, faced with corruption probes, claimed that federal lawmakers were after them because of the forensic audit.
“The takeover of the contract files by the Forensic Auditors will mark the commencement of the next stage of the exercise which started with the handover of contract documents covering projects captured during the verification exercise in April 2020,” the NDDC spokesperson, Charles Odili, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It is important to emphasize that the forensic audit is being carried out in phases and we are now ready to kick-off the Field Forensic Audit.
“To ensure the success of this exercise, we are making available all required documents needed by the field auditors to enable them discharge their duties efficiently and effectively,” Mr Odili said.
He said the files are in 16 lots “as segmented for the forensic exercise”.
The acting Managing Director of NDDC, Kemebradikumor Pondei, on Thursday, handed over 10 pick-up trucks and five buses to the 16 auditing firms.
“The audit will unravel a lot of things in the commission and it is not a witch-hunting process but just to know the state of things in NDDC,” Mr Pondei said.
Joshua Bashiru, the leader of the audit team, said they would meet with state directors of NDDC and departmental directors on November 13 to “enable the auditors to understand how the state works”.Mr Bashiru said the audit would be transparent and would expose the “dealings” in the commission since inception.
There have been allegations of corruption and financial recklessness in the NDDC by successive managements.
The NDDC was set up in 2000 by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo to fast-track development in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
Twenty years later, the region still remains backwards in terms of infrastructure and standard of living, despite the huge amount of money made from oil-exploitation in the area.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, whose ministry supervises the NDDC, said last year that the commission was so corrupt that it was treated like a money-dispensing machine.
“I think people were treating the place as an ATM, where you just walk in there to go and pluck money and go away, I don’t think they were looking at it as an interventionist agency,” Mr Akpabio had said.