N1.32bn not N1.5bn shared for NDDC staff as Covid-19 palliative – MD

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*Pondei

The acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Prof Kemebradikumo Pondei has recanted that the agency spent N1.5 billion its staff as COVID-19 palliative.

Pondei had admitted to the national assembly that the commission spent N1.5 billion for staff as COVID-19 relief funds.

But testifying yesterday before the House of Representatives investigative committee on NDDC Pondei, has said he might have erroneously said earlier that the commission used N1.5 billion to “take care of ourselves” but the actual amount was N1.3 billion.

“I must have said the “take care of ourselves” in anger. It was not N1.5 billion, the figure is N1.32 billion. On the question where in the budget that I derived power to spend the money, I will provide that answer for you. I don’t want to lie under oath,” h said.

Asked by the committee if it would be right to say that the commission did extra budgetary expenses, Pondei said: “I will not say so, let me ask my executive director of projects to explain, I think he has more facts concerning that. I will provide the answer. We will bring this to you Mr. Chairman, it will be sent to your committee. I don’t have the budget here.”

On how much the commission received since the interim committee was set up, Pondei said it received about N6.4 billion monthly, which, according to him, stopped in June.

He added that the commission had received some payments from the oil companies, but he said it was little.

On the whole, he said the commission had received about N72 billion since the IMC came into being.

On whether the N641 million paid to Clear Point Communication was budgeted for in 2019, Pondei said the money was part of the N2.5 billion for the forensic audit in 2019 budget.

“In the budget, there was a proposal for N2.5 billion for forensic audit out of which N1.2 billion was approved and out of that I think N318 million was approved for the lead forensic auditors and only a small percentage has been paid out before the budget expired on the 31st. The N641 million was paid to Clear Point for variety of purposes all related to the forensic audit.

“There are 185 local government areas and each of them was budgeted for N3.46 million, allowances for coordinators in the local government area, training for the coordinators, setting up of information desk. These coordinators are for people to identify the site of all the projects in the area.”

When asked why he and the executive director of projects, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh allegedly paid scholarship fund into their personal accounts, Pondei noted the money was presently being processed.

“We heard the reports that myself and Dr. Cairo Ojougboh that we paid ourselves scholarships and the basic truth is that we were processing these scholarships for these students. Just as we were about submitting it, we heard accusations that our children were in the scholarships list and this had to be brought back, and be scrutinised. As we speak the scholarship payment is being processed and will be cleared this week from 2016.

However, he insisted that forensic audit was ongoing, noting that the NDDC does not have control over the forensic audits.

He added that his job was to provide enabling environment and requisite document.

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