A former Commissioner in the Niger Delta Development Commission in the 2nd and 3rd board representing Cross River State, Ntufam Ekpo Okon, has decried the awards of new contracts and payments at the detriment of ongoing projects by the board and the Interim Management Committee (IMT).
Speaking with Newspot in Calabar, Cross River State capital, Ntufam Okon regretted the actions of some members of the Commission and workers explaining that their actions have left many projects that are ongoing abandoned and uncompleted. “There are these stories of bills not paid and these could only happen when we have reckless awards of contracts because there was indiscipline in the award of contracts without minding budgeting provisions.
“It’s unfortunate that NDDC has found itself in this mess. I think what has caused this current NDDC problem is indiscipline in budgeting and project implementation. That budgeting hasn’t been realistic, the project implementation also unrealistic, we cannot be awarding new projects when the ongoing projects are not funded. New projects are being awarded at the expense of the ongoing projects, it’s regrettably that the new management team awarded new projects, paid for them and abandoned the old ones and the contractors are left frustrated.
“We don’t know what has become of the current NDDC. They have made themselves vulnerable and have become too easily influenced from inside and outside, influence from too many interested groups. Because people lobbied to be appointed and when they come in, they will be pressurized to award contract to their sponsors or godfathers,” he stated.
Sadly, on the appointment of Interim Management Committee (IMC) Ntufam Okon pointed out that it was abnormal, “It is very sad that the current IMC is more than a year now in office and there is no end to it. They kept staying in the office on the excuse of Forensic auditing. Is forensic audit done by them, or it’s supposed to be done by an independent body?
“It shouldn’t be done by them because they too ought to be audited because they are involved in awards and payment. It shouldn’t be them auditing themselves. I think forensic audit was meant to identify projects that are verifiable, that must have been executed and how much has been paid and what was outstanding.
“We didn’t have IMC in our times, what we had was that when the tenure of the old board was about to end, a very senior director would be appointed Acting Managing Director pending the appointment and screening as well as inauguration of the new board. He will work with other directors, there is no place in the NDDC law that made provision for IMC and why we use the staff was that the Commission is like a barracks, ‘soldiers go, soldiers come but barracks remain’ and it makes for continuity.
“The problem in NDDC is so bad that it came to a point that NDDC cannot know how much they owed and yet contract was still being awarded. It’s indiscipline in terms of budgeting and project implementation. When I joined NDDC during the 2nd board in 2005, the 1st board started in 2000 and lasted till the end of 2004, so we started in April 2005. One of the things we found out was the fact that every state has a budget envelope from it. You know how much your state is given because projects funding were shared in a manner that it is already approved by the board.
“It was mandatory that you apply 70% of what you have on ground, ongoing projects and the 30% of the fund was allocated for new projects; that again meant that project started have to be completed by the next board. But the problem we have today is that the new administration that comes in started with new projects awarded by them and that is why we have too many projects scattered and remained uncompleted.
“When we arrived, the first board did award contracts before their dissolution, the bulk of these works were taken over by us. We didn’t rush into award of new contracts; we were there for almost two years before we were able to make any award.
“If the trend is not addressed whereby projects that are ongoing are given priority and completed and taken out, we will continue to have the indiscipline in project funding. As soon as somebody arrives, they are thinking about how to award new projects. ”