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Reps give AGF 72 hours to explain N100bn COVID-19 funds spending
 
By: Abara Blessing Oluchi
Thu, 2 Nov 2023   ||   Nigeria,
 

The House of Representatives has issued 72-hours ultimatum to the Accountant General of the Federation, Mrs Oluwatoyin Madein, to submit detailed report on the utilisation of the N100 billion COVID-19 intervention funds released by the then President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to Ministries, Departments and Agencies between 2020 and 2022.

Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Bamidele Salam (PDP-Osun), who issued the notice in Abuja, frowned upon the AGF’s refusal to comply with the resolution of the Committee to submit the report on October 27, 2023.

While reading the Riot Act against the AGF, Salam explained that the House had mandated the Committee to investigate the “expenditure incurred under the COVID-19 interventions especially in the year 2020 and up to 2022.”

He said, “A letter was written to the Accountant General to furnish the committee with details of all releases pursuant to the provisions of the Appropriation Act as well as other interventions captured by the released from Central Bank of Nigeria to different Ministries, Departments and agenci6es of Government.

“That letter, I was duly informed showed that submission is expected on or before October 27, 2023.

“As we speak, that input has not been received from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

“That is a very very important document that will guide our proceedings on the investigation the house mandated us to carry out within a timeframe.

“Sir, you are the Deputy Director PAC, if the letter comes most likely you will also have an input to the conversation.

“So, we are sending you now to go back home and let the accountant general know that she has defaulted in the request of the committee. We said on or before 27th if there are any objective reasons why she couldn’t meet up with that date, she should communicate to this committee to ask for the extension of time.”

To this end, he directed the AGF to transmit the report before the close of work on Friday, 3rd November, 2023.

The House resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion on the ‘Alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 intervention funds from 2020 to 2022’, approved by Federal Government for various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) between 2020 and 2022.

While leading the debate on the motion, Nyampa Zakari, who underscored the role of the National Assembly in exposing corruption in the utilisation of public fund, lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the loss of lives, jobs and economic opportunities for millions of homes in different parts of the world including Nigeria.

“The House notes that the COVID–19 pandemic disrupted economic activities, leading to global measures such as lockdowns, travel restrictions, business closures, and government shutdowns to control the virus’s spread.

“The House is cognizant that the disruption of economic activities necessitated the introduction of various programs, policies, and interventions to alleviate and boost the economies of families, small businesses, and public corporations.

“The House is mindful that the Federal Government of Nigeria initiated several measures including budgetary provisions as well as funding from International donor agencies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic on the citizens.

“The House is also aware that a sum of N83.9 billion was appropriated for the COVID-19 response in the 2020 Appropriation Act as well as another sum of over N100 billion as intervention funds through supplementary budget and international donor agencies.

“The House is disturbed that the Auditor-General’s report and other sources reveal that significant funds for COVID-19 palliatives and international donations were diverted and unaccounted for by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government.

“The House is concerned that the lack of proper accountability of funds allocated for COVID-19 intervention by the Federal Government and global donor agencies could potentially lead to negative economic ratings and loss of opportunities for Nigeria,” Zakari noted.

In his contribution, Ahmed Jaha, who commended the spirit of the motion, lamented that the amount expended in combatting COVID-19 in Nigeria was humongous and could have easily done much more for each local government in Nigeria.

While querying the mismanagement and diversion of funds meant to battle the pandemic for other issues, Jaha called on the House to investigate the issue thoroughly.

 

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