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The budget defence session of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was cut short on Tuesday following discrepancies in the commission’s budget report.

The Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the NDDC, led by the Managing Director, Daniel Pondei, had appeared before the National Assembly joint committee on Niger Delta Affairs to defend the agency’s 2019 budget performance and the proposals for 2020.

The Senate had in March, approved N346.3 billion as the 2019 budget for the commission, against the N409 billion proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari. The 2019 budget expired in May.

The panel led by Peter Nwaoboshi ( PDP Delta North), queried the IMC over an alleged N143 billion ‘missing’ from the 2019 budget of the commission.

Mr Pondei had in his presentation before the committee, stated that the commission received N305.5 billion as revenue in 2019 and spent N122 billion. He said the commission is now left with a balance of N183.2 billion.

“In compliance with the provision of the 2019 Appropriation Act, we implemented the 2019 capital budget till May 31.

“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 recurrent expenditure which runs from January 1st – December 31st 2019 was implemented substantially. ”

The chairman of the house committee on NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, however, faulted the 2019 budget report of the commission. He disclosed that the report submitted to the joint committee only revealed a balance of N40 billion.

He also queried the MD on discrepancies observed in the 2019 budget report presentation.

“What you have here (expenditure) is N122 billion. From what you said, you received N305,570,683,529.87. If you received N305 billion and you spent N122 billion, what you are telling us now is that the available fund, available to the commission 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.”

This time, the NDDC boss said “the expenditure is actually N264 billion.”

Back and forth

After a few verbal exchanges between the panel and Mr Pondei in a futile attempt to reconcile the figures, Mr Pondei requested for the withdrawal of 2019 budget details in order to address the issue of discrepancies of N143 billion raised by the lawmaker with his team.

The request angered other members of the committee who were later pacified by the committee chairman.

Mr Nwaboshi, in yielding to the request of NDDC boss, adjourned the budget presentation till next week Tuesday.

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The ‘missing’ N143 billion is one of the many discrepancies found in the agency’s records.

The parliament is currently investigating the alleged misappropriation of N40 billion and other financial recklessness in the commission. A lot of controversies have emerged in several meetings held between the two groups.

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