Abuja — The Technical Audit Committee set up to review projects in the Niger Delta between 2009 and 2015 has said 88 per cent of the N423 billion earmarked for its infrastructural development was misappropriated.
The panel report indicated that only 60 per cent of the N700 billion appropriated for the oil-rich area during the tenures of the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was expended.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani, who made the disclosure yesterday after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, vowed that the contractors and backers must deploy the funds judiciously or face sanctions as recommended by the committee.
His words: "To find that N423 billion has been expended in the region with this type of result we see shows that there is something tangibly and obviously wrong with how procurement had been carried out in the ministry."
He added that 427 projects were awarded and executed during the period. Usani continued: "Those that require sanctions will be sanctioned, and the sanctions may not be uniform. It will also be according to the measure of liabilities owed by each of those contractors.
"Some should be compelled to return to site, some of course, should be made to refund money, especially those who we have seen by action displaying criminal intent by collecting money and not appearing at site at all.
"The report is not just all about punishing people. There are also those who have performed well and are commended and the report recommends that they should be encouraged to carry on in their contractual commitments. "
The minister downplayed plans to purge the ministry, saying: "I can not confirm because there are procedures and rules. And there are offences also stipulated by public service which attract particular measure of sanctions. I do not know whether they will amount to purge or lesser sanction."
He also gave an indication of move by the administration to seek a $500 million extra budgetary loan from China to facilitate the construction of the East-West Road that runs across states of the South South.
"As you know, no government agency is sufficiently funded. That becomes a major challenge. The second issue is to address the concern about commitment or lack of it by government. No administration to the best of my knowlege within a democratic setting, has been more committed than this present government," Usani added.