More drama is being witnessed in the ongoing audit and probe of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as officials of the commission could not explain a shortfall of N143 billion in its 2019 budget.
The NDDC budget defence team that appeared before a joint panel of the National Assembly was led by the current acting Managing Director of the commission, Kemebradikumo Pondei.
During the hearing, Pondei could not reconcile the differences in the 2019 budget performance of the NDDC for the financial year which ended in May.
According to the MD, N122 billion was spent initially, but it was revised to N246bn. He failed to respond when he was asked how much was left in the coffers of the NDDC.
“In compliance with the provision of the 2019 Appropriation Act, we implemented the 2019 capital budget till May 31, 2020.
“On the expenditure side, 2019 budget implementation was hindered by the delay in its approval and release coupled with the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“Only the recurrent expenditure which runs from January 1st to December 31st, 2019 was implemented substantially,” the MD said.
Responding to his statement, the House Chairman of the NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo said; “What you have here, spent is N122bn from what you said from the actual money you received, you received N305,570,683,529.87.
If you received N305bn and you spent N122bn, what you are telling us now is that the available fund as we speak now will be N183,315,748,214.58.
Would that be available to be brought forward? What I’m saying is just a simple basic accounting question. You said you generated N305 billion. It is just a yes or no question.”
Rather than answer the question however, Pondei revised the expenditure and said it was N246bn.
Tunji-Ojo then asked if the expenditure summary presented was false to which the MD said the real breakdown is in the appendix of the budget.
Other members of the senate hearing committee further pointed out discrepancies in the balance of the funds presented in the budget after removing the N122bn expenditure initially stated.
A war of words thereafter ensured between the MD and the lawmakers who insisted that the document presented before the House cannot stand in any parliament in the world.
Pondei however insisted that he was standing by the flawed documents after which he was asked by the lawmakers to sign each page of the document to prove its authenticity.
After agreeing to the request initially, he declined shortly after and asked for permission to withdraw some of the budget details so that the NDDC can address the financial discrepancies observed by the lawmakers.
This led to the abrupt end of the session as the lawmakers expressed anger at the request of the acting MD.