The on-going face-off between the National Assembly and the Interim Management Committee, IMC, of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, yesterday, took a twist, as there was a rowdy session among the lawmakers and the management team of the commission.
The National Assembly took a swipe at the IMC over N143 billion allegedly missing from the 2019 budget of the commission.
The budget defense of NDDC was stalled over discrepancies of N183 billion in the 2019 budget of the commission.
The IMC of NDDC led by Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei had appeared before the Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North)-led National Assembly Joint Committee on Niger Delta Affairs and NDDC to defend the 2019 budget expenditure and also present 2020 budget proposal.
Trouble started when Ponde told the lawmakers that the commission received N305.5 billion as revenue in 2019 and spent N122 billion from the amount received with the balance of N183.2 billion.
In his presentation, Pondei said: “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 pandemic.
“Only recurrent expenditure, which runs from January 1 to December 31, 2019, was implemented substantially.”
Ojo faults 2019 budget report
Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on NDDC, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, however, faulted the 2019 budget report of the commission as he said the report submitted to the joint committee only revealed N40 billion.
He queried the MD of the commission on what he described as discrepancies that were observed in the 2019 budget report presentation to which Pondei responded by requesting the withdrawal of 2019 budget details to address the issue of discrepancies of N143 billion raised by the lawmaker.
Ojo said: “What you have here (expenditure) is N122 billion from what you said from the actual money you received, you received N305,570,683,529.87. It means that the available balance that you have there is always a debit and a credit.
“If you received N305 billion and spent N122 billion, what you are telling us now is that the fund available to the commission, as we speak, will be N183,315,748,214.58. Would that be available to be brought forward?”
Pondei responded: “I refer you to appendix 1. There is a table in appendix 1. If you look at column 2, it talks about funds approved in the budget, which sums up to N346 billion, then you look at the first quarter in 2019, it shows you the actual revenue received in that period and expenditure.”
Ojo further said: “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.”
Pondei also refused to sign the document when Nwaoboshi requested that he should sign each page of the document.
Nwaoboshi said: “If you are not ready to sign it, we take it that you have not given us a budget performance for the consideration of your 2020 budget. It means that you have to go and prepare your budget performance for 2019 and then come back.”
The request, however, angered other members of the committee, who were later pacified by Nwaoboshi.
When the hall became rowdy, Nwaoboshi intervened saying: “He is now appealing to go back with his team to look at the whole report and come back.”
While some of the lawmakers called for the session to go on, others said that Pondei should return better prepared.
Nwaboshi, in yielding to the request of NDDC boss, adjourned the budget presentation till next Tuesday.