Breaking: COVID-19: Reps grill ministry of Health over augmentation of contract sum

Elizabeth AtimeJanuary 18, 20244 min

Members of the House of Reps have questioned the Ministry of Health over the augmentation of contracts by the Ministry and over unused N10 billion COVID-19 funds. 

The House of Representatives, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by Rep. Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun) has queried the Ministry of Health for raising the contract sum for the procurement of oxygen plants from the initial sum approved by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).

The Committee also asked for the whereabouts of the N10 billion earmarked for the construction of a COVID-19 vaccine centre which has not been constructed to date and wondered why the money has not been returned to the coffers of the Federal Government.

The Committee also faulted discrepancies in the figures approved by the BPP for the contracts of oxygen plants in some states from the N1. 329 billion that was earlier approved and the inflated sum, to the tune of N1.525 billion.

The Committee also observed that two offer letters were issued for the same contract which they found suspicious. It also held that the earlier letter originally issued for the contract was not withdrawn because a second one was issued.

On his part, the Director of Finance, Francis Tyohuna would later explain that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of N1.5 billion which was augmented.

Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary, Daju Kachollom distanced herself from the inflation as she asked the desk officer who handled the contract for the oxygen plants to give a detailed explanation to the Committee.

On the whereabouts of the N10 billion earmarked for the production of the COVID-19 Centre, the Permanent Secretary explained “Unfortunately this has caused a lot of crises within the Ministry. When I came in September I was informed that there’s a sum of 10 billion lying fallow in the coffers of the Ministry meant for the production of the COVID-19 vaccine Centre. I’m told that the money is still there.”

The Chairman of the Committee, in his response, said he was curious that “the Permanent Secretary in her presentation never mentioned that N10 billion was lying fallow in the Ministry. It is also even worrisome that  the Minister plans on using it for something else without appropriation.”

Ruling on the matter, the Ministry was given seven (7) days to return the N10 billion to the Federal Government.

Earlier, Rep. Salam in his opening remarks said “We are going to be firm, lawful and we urge all ministries appearing before us to be honest.”

The chairman also berated all heads of agencies who are in the habit of shunning national assembly invitations saying “Anyone who fails to appear unjustly will not leave us with any choice than to use the instrumentality of our laws to deal with such a person.”

The under-listed government agencies are appearing before the PAC on “investigation of alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 intervention funds from 2020 to 2022.

1. Rural Electrification Agency, Abuja.

2. Federal Ministry of Health.

3. Federal Ministry Finance, Budget and National Planning.

4. Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

5. Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty, Alleviation.

6. Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development.

7. Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.

Elizabeth Atime

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