…Ministries of Trade, Health to refund N85billions to FG

….REA CEO rebuked for treating NASS invitations with levity

By Lubem Gena, Abuja

The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee (PAC)has uncovered several infractions in the management of the multi-billion naira Covid-19 intervention funds which was disbursed to Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) from 2020-2022 .

This came to the fore today during the hearing of the Representative Bamidele Salam led committee when the Federal Ministry of Health and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) appeared before it.

The ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Daju Kachollom, who appeared with her lieutenants of staff was grilled over the N8.9 billion allocated to her ministry to carry out several interventions during which her explanation in some areas did not go down well with the members of the committee.

In his opening remarks, Rep. Salam said the whole purpose of the hearing as captured by the motion which the House earlier passed is to ensure accountability and transparency in the expenditure of the various sums of money running into over N600 billion that was released by the Federal Government of Nigeria to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and its resultant effect.

Upon interrogation, it was discovered that the Ministry of Health has N10billion meant for the production of vaccines have been unutilized owing to what she explained as “a lot of issues”.

Angered by the revelation, Hon. Segun Osoba moved a motion and the committee resolved that the Ministry must return the money into the federation account within 7-days and present the evidence of such transaction to the committee shortly thereafter.

Similarly, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments was asked to refund N75 billion allocated to it as COVID-19 Intervention funds.

This followed a motion moved by Rep. Bassey Akiba (LP, Cross Rivers) after the non appearance of officials of the ministry at its investigative hearing on Thursday.

Akiba moved the motion to compel the ministry to refund the monies appropriated to it during the intervention on COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The Committee adopted the motion after it was seconded and directed that, the ministry refund the said funds to the federal government.

Meanwhile, Rural Electrification Agency (REA) was directed to submit documents detailing the utilisation of the agency’s COVID-19 Intervention funds.

The DG, Salihijo Ahmed appeared before the Committee at the investigative hearing on Thursday and requested for more time to submit relevant documents.

The Committee noted with seriousness the lackadaisical attitude of the Agency to invitations by the parliament and warned that such will not be tolerated anymore. The agency is to submit the documents on Friday before the close of work and appear on Monday at 10am.

Also in appearance today was the Managing Director of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mrs. Olubunmi Kuku who was grilled over the spending of N7.7billion during the period.

While talking to the documents she earlier presented to the committee, she emphasised that the money was spent on accumulated staff salaries, wages, furniture grants, seating allowance.

Not satisfied with her explanations, the committee asked for all the relevant documents and respond to an earlier Auditor-General’s query to be forwarded to it.

FAAN is to also re-appear within 2-weeks to fill the gaps that needs to be filled in her document.