The acting Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Ibim Semenitari, said the biggest challenge she had upon assumption of office the huge number of debt owed contractors.
Semenitari who disclosed this on Sunday when she featured on the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja, said the commission owed more than 8,600 contractors between N400 billion and N450 billion when she assumed office, but about 600 of them were paid by her administration.
She said that the paucity of funds coupled with the public perception of the commission became sources of concern for the management of NDDC, adding that the commission had to deal with both challenges and reinvigorate the workforce to be able to get to its present state.
“That’s a lot of money; so the first challenge was you have so many contracts and you have so much debt – so there was a big hole right there.
“The second was the perception problem. The commission was perceived rightly or wrongly as a place you just come, take your own share and go; it was also perceived to be a corrupt place.
“And we also had to deal with the need to professionalise the workforce basically in terms of how you reposition the people.
“And also reinvigorate the workforce so that people will have a sense of freshness and a sense of new challenges because we can get people back on track.”
Sementari however, assured that better days will come for the commission by the time its funding partners pay up the amount they are owing, stating that with payment of the outstanding monies, the projects the commission was handling would become visible.
She added that the late passage of the budget of the commission had hampered proper planning and proper management of the commission.
“By law, we are funded with three per cent from oil companies; we are funded from the ecological fund and then we are also funded from the amount of money accruable to the state.
“We had a situation where we were being owed by all of our funding partners. The Federal Government, who is our owner, was owing us about N800 billion.
“Whereas the law provides for specific kinds of funding for the commission, unfortunately the commission had not been receiving its own funds as at when due; so this was one of the challenges that I had to deal with.
“And then of course perhaps the last and the critical one is the fact of late budgets. The NDDC budget is always late and that doesn’t help for planning.
“It comes so late in the year, indeed I hear sometimes as late as October, by which time the year is ending.
“And that’s because the NDDC budget by the budget practice doesn’t go along with all the other budgets.
“For that reason the budget process of the NDDC begins after and so terminates ridiculously late in the year, by which time of course by planning and everything make us almost ridiculous and impossible for the management to function within the appropriation act.”
She, however, called for speedy passage of the budget of the commission to ensure smooth operation within a given financial year.
The NDDC boss also said the commission spent N9.2 billion on execution of projects between January and March, 2016.
“As at Jan. 1 2016, our balance of account was N9.9 billion. And then within this period under review that is – January to March- for that first quarter, we received N6.8 billion from the Federal Government and N32 billion from oil companies, so that total inflow as at March was about N48. 9 billion.
“These are the expenses we have made in the course of the period. The recurrent payment including salary and allowances and other expenditure were stood at N7 billion and payment for projects stood at N9.2 billion.
“There was no accusation of any capital fixed asset within the period under review. So, the total of expenditure within the period under review is N16.3 billion.”
She said the cash balance as at March 25, 2016 was N32. 26 billion, “This means that when I make payment this week or next week, that has taken to the second quarter.”
The acting managing director said before the commission paid any contractor, it processed the interim payment certificate.
“The way we pay, we process the interim payment certificate. And then the number of interim payment certificates that have processed for payment is 153 but we have worked more (than) these numbers.
“Those that are still in the process, action is being taken, some of them have treated 493 interim payment certificates.”
Semenitari said the commission paid 642 out of the 8600 contractors during the period under review.
“Basically, what I am saying is that I have addressed over 600 contractors. In other word, 600 projects have treated during the period under review. We have been able to complete about 28 projects in this period.”