Forensic auditors commissioned by the federal government to scrutinise the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have finally commenced physical verification of projects in Imo and Abia States about two months after the exercise was rolled out in seven other states.
It was gathered at the weekend that the exercise has already been concluded in five of the nine states that make up the NDDC-Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo and Ondo. Abia, Delta, Imo and Rivers States are still undergoing verification.
While physical verification by the forensic auditors commenced in seven of the nine NDDC states in mid-April, the exercise could not commence in Abia and Imo States due to the recent security challenges in the South-east region.
However, with normalcy returning to the zone, BBC Professionals, a firm of forensic auditors handling Lot 8 (Imo State), at the weekend, undertook an on-the-spot assessment of project sites in the Ohaji Local Government Area of the state.
They are part of the 16 auditing firms contracted by the federal government to audit the projects/activities of the interventionist agency between 2001 and 2019.
Conducting the auditors round the projects sites, a Deputy Director at the NDDC office in Abia State, Mr. Raymond Ogara, said some of the commission’s projects ranged from roads, electricity, building of school classroom blocks, and the provision of water, among others.
Some of the projects verified by the auditors were the 20-km Obinze/Umuokanne/Ilile/Umuapo link road; six classroom blocks at Umuokanne Comprehensive Secondary School; a water project as well as 300kva electricity transformers installed at different parts of the community, among others.
In an interview with journalists during the verification exercise, a representative of the audit firm, BBC Professionals, Mrs. Gloria Egwuenu, said the physical exercise commenced in Imo State last week.
She attributed the late start on the recent security challenges in the state, adding that some progress had been made since the commencement.
With over 1,000 projects scattered across the state, Egwuenu noted that more time might be required to complete the physical verification.
She said: “We commenced late because of the security situation in the state. We have over 1,000 projects in Imo State. Some of the projects have started, some are completed, some are ongoing, but we did not meet any contractor during the verification process. Some of the projects are completed but not in use. Some have been vandalised.”
In Abia State (Lot 2), the forensic auditors were also conducted round some project sites in Ukwa East Local Government LGA, Isiala Ngwa and Obingwa by NDDC officials.
Some of the projects visited were a 3.3 kilometre road project in Isiala Ngwa; a health centre in Umuanunu (Obingwa) as well as solar-powered streetlights in Akirik–Uku, Ndoki, among others.
The physical verification exercise in different states is undertaken by various teams of forensic auditors.
There are feelers that the July target of completing the physical verification and submitting the audit report might not be feasible.
Newsmen revealed that apart from Imo and Abia States, where the exercise started only last week due to insecurity, Delta and Rivers States, which started mid-April, still have a long way to go due to challenges of difficult terrain as well as the vast number of projects to be covered.
Rivers State alone is reportedly hosting over 3,000 projects scattered across the state with only a little above 1,000 said to have been verified as at the weekend.