By Henry Umoru – Abuja
The Senate has uncovered how the Ministry of Health mismanaged a total sum of N4.6 billion fund that was meant to tackle Ebola scourge in Nigeria.
The Senator Matthew Urhoghide, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Edo South led Senate Committee on Public Accounts is raising the alarm of how the money was spent and sustained the indictment report against the Ministry of Health over the issue due to failure of the officials of the Ministry to explain their own side of the allegation.
The Senate Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide sustained the Auditor General Report against the Ministry of Health after the officials of the Ministry declined the series of invitations of the Committee.
According to the Senate Committee, series of invitations were extended to the Ministry in the matter with no response and the committee, therefore, had no other option than to sustain the query.
The Senator Urhoghide led Committee is relying on the query raised by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation in the 2015 report and brought before it for probe and subsequent presentation to the Senate at Plenary.
Urhoghide said, “we have written letters to them, but till now they have refused to appear before the committee giving credence to the observation of Auditor General of the federation.”
The query read, “Following the sudden outbreak of the Ebola scourge/disease in Nigeria and the determination of the Federal Government to contain and control the spread of the disease, a total sum of N4,887,079,750.00 was released to control the Ebola disease.
“The sum of N1,992,548,500.00 was released on 11th August 2014 while the balance of N2,894,531,250.00 was released on 4th November 2014. The funds were said to be kept in a commercial bank Account Number 0122391169.
“Information extracted from the Cash book and copies of Bank Mandates made available to my officers showed that amounts totaling N954,680,339.86 were spent between 20th August and 21st December 2014, on various activities including contract awards for supplies of assorted items, thereby indicating a balance of N3,605,242,575.70 in the account as at 31st December 2014.
“Regrettably, these figures could not be authenticated/verified owing to the refusal of the Federal Ministry of Health to release the statement of account, the Bank Reconciliation Statements, relevant payment vouchers and other related documents for my examination, despite several written and verbal requests made for them at various times.
“The items purportedly procured could not be verified. As such, I cannot confirm that the items were actually supplied, that they conformed with the contract quality specifications and that the elements of economy, efficiency and effectiveness were observed in awarding the contracts.
“Aside the contracts, there were other expenditures such as Duty Tour Allowances and Trainings, the details of which were equally not made available.
“Consequently, the Permanent Secretary was requested to kindly release all the documents and records relating to the Ebola Virus Disease Fund for my scrutiny, to enable me satisfy myself that the funds were properly spent in accordance with extant regulations and that government actually derived commensurate value for the monies expended.
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“Similarly, the preliminary examination of the Cash Book and the Bank Statement relating to a commercial bank Account No. 20238265786 maintained for the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) by the Federal Ministry of Health revealed that amounts totalling N1,193,235,150.77 were paid out to various individuals and corporate entities between January 2014 and June 2015. However, relevant transaction documents such as payment vouchers relating to these expenditures were not made available to my officers for audit.
“The Cashbook produced was not properly maintained as specified in the Financial Regulations. The “Bank Reconciliation Statement” presented for audit was also not prepared in accordance with the format in the Financial Regulations.
“The purported Bank Reconciliation Statement was merely a list of receipts and payments extracted from the Bank Statement. Relevant transaction documents such as payment vouchers, invoices, award letters, Stores Receipt Vouchers, etc. relating to the expenditures were not produced for audit. Therefore, I am unable to certify that these transactions were properly conducted in the interest of the Federal Government.
“The Permanent Secretary has been requested to produce all the Payment Vouchers and other documents relating to this account for the period January 2014 – December 2015 for my examination, in line with Section 85(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Financial Regulation 110.
“All the issues were brought to the attention of the Permanent Secretary through my Audit Inspection Report referenced OAuGF/HAAD/FMOA/16/011 and dated 7th September 2016. His response is still being awaited.”