COVID-19 Funds: Reps Begin Full Probe, Warn MDAs Against ‘Delay Tactics’

The panel warns that it will not entertain delay tactics from the Ministries, Departments and Agencies with pleas for an extension of time.


COMBO: COVID-19 palliatives are offloaded from a vehicle and House of Representatives members sit for a plenary session. (Photos by Channels TV)

 

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Representatives, on Monday, began a full-scale probe into the alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 intervention funds from 2020 to 2023 as mandated by the House at the plenary session.

Addressing the opening session, the Chairman of the Committee, Bamidele Salam (PDP-OSUN), warned that the committee would not entertain delay tactics from the Ministries, Departments and Agencies by way of asking for an extension of time.

“The committee is probing over 60 MDAs over several billions of naira in intervention funds allocated to them during the COVID-19 pandemic and we have given them enough time to prepare for this exercise,” he said.

“The committee will not entertain any extension of time from any of the MDAs. The committee is not after any individual or groups, we are going to be diligent in carrying out our assignment.”

Workers offload food bags to be distributed to residents in Abuja as COVID-19 palliatives to ease the effect of the ongoing lockdown on April 17, 2020. Sodiq Adelakun/Channels TV

 

Salam urged the Accountant General of the Federation, whose office he argued is crucial to the assignment, to make available relevant and competent personnel to the committee to facilitate the assignment.

Some of the MDAs that appeared before the committee included Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi; the Federal Ministry of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy; the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security; the Federal Ministry of Water Resources; and the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), among others.

The committee directed the Chief Medical Director of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi, Prof Yusuf Jubrin, to reappear before it on Thursday with relevant documents to back up the funds released to the institution during the period.

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While grilling the acting Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Communication Innovation and Digital Economy and the Procurement Officer, Mohammed Ibrahim and Mrs Margret Ebute, the committee members picked holes in the documents submitted before it.

Consequently, the committee directed the officials to go back and reappear with relevant documents, such as vouchers and documentary evidence on the expenditure of the N3 billion allocated to the ministry during the period.

The committee also frowned on the award of several contracts on the same day and the claim of exclusive rights of certain contractors to provide certain services without following principles of Federal Character and due process.

The committee also faulted the claims of the ministry on the expenditure on training programmes organised during the total lockdown in the country and directed it to provide relevant documents on it and the venues of such training programmes.