The Federal Executive Council, FEC, yesterday asked the anti-graft agencies to probe how N423billion for projects in the Niger Delta in six years went down the drain. This was disclosed by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Usani N. Usani who told reporters at the end of the FEC meeting that 60 per cent of the contracts sum (about N423 billion) had been paid for the 427 projects with nothing to show for the money paid.
A big chunk of the N700 billion contracts for which N423billion had been paid were awarded during the administration of former Presidents Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.
Mr. Usani assured that those found culpable in the investigations would either be made to return money or be prosecuted by the anti-graft agencies.
He said: “Today FEC received approval of a project technical audit committee report which was carried out by the ministry in investigating all contracts awarded and projects and programmes carried out in the ministry from inception of the ministry from 2009 to 2015.
“The revealing content of the report shows that over N423 billion has been expended in the region by the ministry alone, not other intervening agencies. From this amount, project execution rate has been at 12percent, with an average completion rate of a project standing at five years. And the impact rate is 8percent.
“So, today we have sought approval from Council to have the recommendations of this report conveyed to the legitimate agencies charged with the statutory responsibilities of recovering government assets that are either misappropriated, misused or found to be idling in some quarters.
“With this, it means all those who have accessed government resources for one purpose or another must be compelled to make adequate use of same otherwise face the recommendations that go with such violations, and that is our position concerning that report. And we have got Council approval for that.”
“It’s also important to place emphasis on the fact that in the region of 60per cent resources in terms of funds had been paid out to contractors with that 12per cent completion rate. When we say 60per cent, it is 60per cent of the amount of money that was actually appropriated, being N700billion. And so, 60per cent of that constitutes N423 billion.
“So, to find that N423 billion has been expended in the region with the type of result we see obviously shows that there is something tangibly and obviously wrong with how procurement had been carried out in the ministry,” he said
On whether public officials found to have colluded with the contractors would be dealt with, Usani said those found culpable would be sanctioned.
“The report has also recommended where complicity is found in the evaluation or monitoring personnel or department, that sanctions should be taken. So, I can confirm that to you.”
On East-West road, the minister said: “As you know, no government agency is sufficiently funded. That becomes a major challenge. The second issue is to address the concern about commitment or lack of it by government. No administration to the best of my knowledge within a democractic setting has been more committed than this present government.
“And demonstration of this is the action of this administration to go ahead and seek extra budgetary special loan credit from China to the tune of $500 million; now we are making a fresh application to increase that to $774 million to be able to tackle an aspect of that road and this came under five of the special projects nominated by the President to see that work doesn’t stop and if you look at our budget as lean as it is, about 50 per cent goes into the allocation to the East-West road.
“Beyond that for this year the budget ministry proposed N8billion counterpart funding for the credit facility we are getting from China and so we are committed but it is just impossible to say we will be able to allocate enough funds because the competing demand does not allow satisfaction in every sector of the economy; so its a problem for us.”