Reps uncover mismanagement, discrepancies in COVID-19 funds disbursements

Dirisu Yakubu

The House of Representatives says it has uncovered mismanagement and discrepancies in the disbursement of funds earmarked for COVID-19.

During a plenary session on Tuesday, the lawmakers received a report from the Public Accounts Committee on the investigation into the disbursement and management of the funds.

While laying the report during the session presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Benjamin Kalu, the Chairman of the Committee, Bamidele Salam, said the report covered the period between 2020 and 2022, during which the committee invited 92 ministries, departments, and agencies.

The investigation followed a motion debated in plenary on October 17, 2023, alleging mismanagement of COVID-19 intervention funds.

The Recalled Salam-led committee commenced the public hearing on November 27, 2023, and invited the concerned MDAs for questioning.

The reports reveal a trail of mismanagement, non-compliance, and outright violations of procurement laws and financial regulations by various MDAs and private sector beneficiaries.

The report, which quoted records from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, gave a breakdown of inflows totalling N1.32 trillion.

Out of the amount, the Nigerian equivalent of $3.4 billion in donations by the International Monetary Fund as grants to the Federal Government stood at N1.28 trillion, while the Federal Government intervention stood at N34.4 billion.

The general donation amounted to N6.09bn, while the donation from the China General Chamber of Commerce was N48.12 million.

Similarly, donations from the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board stood at N70 million, and Remita E-payment raked in the sum of N50 million.

The document, which was sighted by our correspondent, further indicates that the Ministry of Water Resources, the Federal Ministry of Finance, University Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres, Specialised Health institutions, and The Rural Electrification Agency, among others, appeared before the committee during the investigation.

The report read in part, “There were many cases of non-appearance, delayed appearance, non-submission of required documents, and late submission of documents by some MDAs of government who got funds from the Federal Government COVID-19 intervention funding.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria did not provide the required information on time despite several letters written by the Committee.

“There were several cases of deliberate refusal by some beneficiary entities to provide the certificates of no-objection issued to them by the Bureau of Public Procurement on procurements during the pandemic for verification by the committee.

“There were several instances of unjustifiable delay in procurements by Chief Executive Officers contrary to provisions of the Procurement Act for which funds were released between 2020 and 2021 but yet to be completed to date.

“The committee observed that most of the private sector beneficiaries of the COVID-19 Intervention Funding used the funds for purposes other than those for which they were approved by the disbursing MDAs.”

The report indicted some airline operators, saying, “The most apparent examples were private airline operators like ArikAir, Air Peace, Dana Airline, Azman Air, MAX Air, Aero Contractors Overland, etc., and other subsidiary airport service providers who used the funds provided for activities in their normal course of operations rather than payment of staff salaries or maintenance of aircraft during the period of shutdown.

“The airline operators also shun invitations to provide more information on the use of funds received from the Federal Government.  A private airline operator (King Airlines and Travels Limited), which received a sum of N15 million and kept the money in a dedicated account, has, however, offered to refund the money to the Federal Government.

“Investigation also reveals that few of the MDAs diverted their COVID-19 intervention funds to different programmes or projects for which similar budgetary provisions had adequately been made in the Appropriation Acts for the period under review.

“Some medical centres and teaching hospitals claimed to have refunded unspent balances of their funds to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission dedicated accounts without providing pieces of evidence of such refunds.”

The Bamidele-led committee also established instances of “outright violation of the Procurement Act for works and services, Financial Regulations, violation of provisions of extant circulars on approval limits, as well as unauthorised virement of funds by many MDAs.”

Meanwhile, Salam, who represents Ede North/ Ede South/ Ejigbo Federal Constituency, Osun State, has pledged to reveal more of Volume 2 of the report, which concerns the utilisation of funds by the Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Food Security; Industry, Trade, and Investment; Education; Humanitarian Affairs; and other bodies, including the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency; the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control; and the Nigeria Police Force, among others.

 

 

 

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