The Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is taking steps to strengthen its procurement processes as part of measures to ensure transparency in the interventionist agency.
The Chairman of the NDDC Governing Board, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), said this in an exclusive media briefing in Abuja, after an extra-ordinary meeting of the board on Monday. He underlined the importance of firming up the procurement unit and fine-tuning the processes for better transparency.
Senator Ndoma-Egba regretted that the public images of NDDC had suffered because of the procedures adopted by its procurement unit in the past. “The Commission has not had the most edifying of public images and that is because the procurement processes were opaque,” he said.
The NDDC Chairman stated that a transparent process would help the Commission to get all its outstanding funds. He said: “We will persuade those who are in arrears to pay and one of the easiest ways of getting them to pay is by ensuring that our processes were transparent. The moment they see a certain level of transparency, it will encourage them to live up to their obligations to the Commission. When the processes are opaque, people will hold back.”
Giving reasons for the extra-ordinary board meeting, Senator Ndoma-Egba explained that management could only implement policies approved by the board and since they had just taken over, it was necessary to quickly put policies on ground to enable management take off.
According to the Chairman, “the management is not yet in a position to carry out its statutory duties because mandates have not been changed. So, one of the decisions we had to take was for the mandate to be changed.”
Senator Ndoma-Egba restated his position that the new NDDC board and management would be driven by a regional vision. “If you recall, at the inauguration and handing over ceremonies, I said very clearly, that we will not be competing with local governments because ours is a regional mandate. We have to stick to that regional mandate by spreading development across the region.”
In his own his own remarks, the NDDC Managing Director, Mr Nsima Ekere, said that henceforth the Commission would ensure that all payments to contractors were tied to bank guarantees. He warned: “We will hold the banks accountable.”
The MD further stated: “Most of the NDDC advance payments that have been made were based on bank guarantees. What that means is that the bank is guaranteeing the performance of the contractor. So, the first thing we will do will be to go after these banks that guaranteed projects that have failed. We will demand that they give us back our money where the work done doesn’t justify the money that was paid.”
Mr Ekere said that the board also discussed restructuring the balance sheet of the NDDC. He said that this would involve carrying out a project audit. He added: “We have liabilities that run into well over a trillion naira. We will look at the projects that have given rise to this liability. Then, we will vet them and see which projects we can go ahead with and those we will discontinue because some of these projects were even not properly awarded in the first place.
“By the time we carry out the auditing, it will help us. Then of course, the audit will enable us to bring NDDC back to its core mandate. We will work along these lines that we have highlighted and make sure that we make some remarkable difference in the lives of the people of the Niger Delta.”
The NDDC boss said that the new arrangement where the Commission reports to the Presidency through the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs would actually add value to the development of the oil-rich region. Mr Ekere said: “In the past we had cases of duplication of projects. The new arrangement will eliminate the problem of duplication from the ministry and the NDDC. So, it is a good thing and we commend Mr President for that initiative.”