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NEITI, AUDITORS TO MEET OVER EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRY ACCOUNTS

By NBF News
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The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and the appointed auditors for the proposed audit of all revenues and disbursements of allocated funds to entities involved in the extractive industries are billed to meet this week with a view to determining the actual take-off date of the exercise and the agencies that will be covered during the first phase of the exercise nationwide.

Investigations indicated that the meeting between the NEITI and the auditors awarded the contract by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its November 28, 2012, meeting  would  be held either on Thursday or Friday in Abuja, during which all pending issues on the exercise which would  span nine months would be considered and decisions taken on them.

A source confirmed that the top level management meeting between the two parties to the deal was convened to avoid any further prevarications on the audit which, in addition to the oil and gas activities, would cover major agencies in the extractive industrial sector including the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Federal Government of Nigeria's share of Derivation and Ecological Fund and the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).

Others that will also be covered by the Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement Audit spanning from 2007 to 2011 are Tertiary Education Fund (TetFund), Central Bank of Nigeria (Development of Natural Resources) and the Administration and Application of Excess Crude Oil Account.

The source, who is close to the Presidency and the NEITI but would not like to be identified in print, said the 'Presidency is determined to ensure that transparency and accountability become the rule of all financial and operational modalities in the extractive industry, hence the approval of FEC that the five-year audit be embarked upon without further delay.

'As you know, the contract has been awarded for the auditors to commence the audit. So what they are doing now is to agree with NEITI as to how the exercise will be conducted. Let me also say that contrary to the much publicised reports in the media that the audit is mainly to focus on oil and gas alone, it is an all-embracing exercise that will cover all the agencies that have one or two thing to do with funds derivable from the sector and disbursed  to all agencies or institutions that have benefitted from such allocations and disbursements,' she added.

While not totally forthcoming with the exact date of the proposed meeting scheduled for Abuja this week, the source explained that 'meetings between NEITI and the auditors will be an ongoing thing as far as the exercise goes on and until it is concluded. This is necessary in order to get things properly done and achieve the purpose of the audit. Yes, I understand that they are planning to meet this week but the exact date I cannot confirm now.'

Stakeholders, particularly community leaders in six states of the Niger Delta region, have over the past weeks lauded the federal government for appointing auditors to look into the allocations and disbursements of the extractive industry which, they pointed out, would help in  determining how the funds had been utilised by the their states.

Specifically, the community leaders believe that the audit would enable the auditors have firsthand knowledge about the state governments' claims about development and what is on ground at the communities where major extractive activities are taking place on daily basis without commensurate benefits accruing to the local communities and their people.

They have therefore called on NEITI to interface with the oil and gas communities in their states, namely Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Bayelsa and Ondo, in order to properly investigate the utilisation of the 13 per cent Derivation Fund which they claimed had been wasted by their state governments over the past decades with nothing to show for the disbursements in terms of physical infrastructure and socio-economic state of their communities.