NIPRD spent COVID-19 funds on Diesel in 2023 – Reps

Beloved JohnJanuary 25, 20244 min

The Public Account Committee of the House has frowned at the Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) for spending COVID-19 funds on other projects. 

The House of Representatives Public Account Committee (PAC) has faulted the Nigeria Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) for using COVID-19 funds released in 2020 to execute other projects in 2023. 

During an investigative hearing on Wednesday, January 24, the committee chairman, Rep Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun), pointed out that the institute had used its COVID-19 funds for the purchase of diesel in 2023 instead of using its annual budgetary allocation for that purpose.

He said, “Why should you still be spending money appropriated in 2020 and 2021 for COVID intervention in 2023 for the purchase of diesel when you have your regular appropriation or any other source of revenue for you to run your institute.”

Responding to this, the NIPRD Director General, Obi Adigwe, said the institute had been underfunded for years before the outbreak of the COVID virus and even after, and as a result, had resorted to using the COVID fund to carry out other projects alongside post-COVID research. 

He pointed out that a total sum of N4 billion was released to the institute as COVID-19 intervention fund, from this, N2 billion was allocated to capital expenditures and the other half for recurrent, however, due to the lack of funds, parts of the appropriation was used to aid post-COVID projects.

“The institute, even though we saved millions of lives during COVID, remains abysmally funded. In 2023, NIPRD received only 170 million for its capital expenditure. If converted to dollars, that is less than N150,000,000 dollars for capital expenditure, which is grossly inadequate for an institution as important as NIPRD. Aside from that, we are yet to receive this money.

“As a Director General are expected to carry out RND research that saves lives. Not a penny in the N175 million,” he said. 

Responding to this, Rep Salam said the institute had neither the right nor power to divert funds meant for COVID to tackle another challenge describing the action as a breach of the law, noting that the poor funding received by the institute cannot be used to justify the use of COVID-19 intervention funds to augment its budgetary allocations. 

“We sympathise with you that FG allocation is yet to be released to you, but it is not defensible for you to use money meant for one purpose to solve another challenge. That money, by law, should have been mopped up by the end of 2021 and 2022 by the accountant general of the federation.

“This a major infracture of the appropriation act. At the end of the year, the treasury is closed, and that money should be remitted back to the treasury. It is not within your power to use that money to solve another problem. 

“Rather, you come back to the National Assembly and make a request. And I am sure that your supervising committee will be able to make appropriate recommendations to the House,” he said.

Also speaking, a member of the Committee, Rep Inuwa Garba (PDP, Gombe), urged the DG to refrain from these claims pointing out that diverting the COVID funds to carry out other projects without seeking the necessary approval violates the law, irrespective of the rationale behind it.

“You cannot use COVID funds where it is not supposed to be. That money you are taking does not belong to that project. It has been appropriated for a particular responsibility, and telling us now that N175 million was allocated to you, without releases, doesn’t take away the issues. 

“What did you do about it? What steps did you take to get your money? Nothing. If the intervention fund wasn’t released to you, what would you do?”

Beloved John

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