Covid-19 Funds: Reps Expose Fraud, Mismanagement, Breach Of Financial Regulations

….Public Accounts Committee submits report of investigations into Covid-19 spending by MDAs

The House of Representatives today, 11th June 2024 during a plenary session received a report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House on the investigation into the disbursement and management of COVID-19 funds.

While laying the report during the session presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon Benjamin Okezie Kalu, the Chairman of the Committee, Representative Bamidele Salam said the reporcoverser the period between 2020-2022 during which the committee invited several Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) totalling ninety-two (92).

The Committee’s investigation was prompted by a motion debated in plenary on October 17, 2023 alleging mismanagement of COVID-19 intervention funds.

Salam said the Public hearing commenced on Monday 27th November, 2023 and all submissions of each MDAs were objectively analysed and presented for Committee members’ consideration during the investigation.

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

The report which quoted the Accountant-General of the Federation recordindicateste a breakdown of inflows totalling One Trillion, three hundred and twenty-three billion, seven hundred and fifty-four million, two hundred and ninety-six thousand and seven hundred and thirty-two naira, seventy-seven Kobo (N1,323,754,296,732.77) for the Covid-19.

The breakdown analysis shows that out of the stated the amount, the Nigeria equivalent of USD3.4B donations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) grant to the Federal Government stood at N1.283,214,581,802.89 while the Federal Government intervention stood at N34,400,000,000.00 just as general donations raked in N6,091,594,929.88 and donation from the China General Chamber of Commerce was N48, 120,000.00.

Similarly, donation from Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board stood at N70,000,000.00 as well as Remita E-payment transit of N50,000,000.00.

The document which was sighted by our team of correspondents further indicate that, the MDAs who appeared and answered questions include the Ministry of Water Resources, the Federal Ministry of Finance, University Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres, Specialised Health institutions, The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and others.

According to the report on findings during the investigation, “There were many cases of non-appearance, delayed appearance, non-submission of required documents and late submission of documents by some Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (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 Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) 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 till date.

“The committee observed that most of the private sector beneficiaries of the Covid-19 Intervention Funding used the funds for purposes other than which they were approved by the disbursing MDAs. The most apparent examples were private airline operators like ArikAir, Airpeace, 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 as Covid-19 intervention. A private airline operator (King Airlines and Travels Limited) which received a sum of 15 million naira 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 programme/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 (ICPC’s) dedicated accounts without providing pieces of evidence of such refunds.”

The Committee established outright violation of the Procurement Act for works and services, Financial Regulations, violation of provisions of extant circulars on approval limits as well as unauthorized virement of funds by many MDAs.

Meanwhile, the Chairman said that volume 2 of the report will reveal the utilisation of the funds by the Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Food Security; Industry, Trade and Investment; Education; Humanitarian Affairs and other bodies including National Primary Healthcare Development Agency; Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Nigeria Police Force among others.

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