Reps order ministries to return N85bn COVID-19 funds

Reps order ministries to return N85bn COVID-19 funds

The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee, on Thursday, directed the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments to refund N75bn allocated to it as COVID-19 intervention funds.

This was as the committee also ordered the Ministry of Health to return the N10bn released to it to produce COVID-19 vaccine.

The resolution was sequel to a motion moved by Bassey Akiba, a member of the Labour Party from Cross River State, following the non-appearance of officials of the ministry at its investigative hearing on Thursday.

The committee, in a recent advertorial, invited 59 ministries, departments and agencies to appear before it for the commencement of an investigative hearing on the alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 funds.

Originally slated for Wednesday, January 17, the House shifted it to Thursday in order to commiserate with the government and people of Oyo State over Tuesday’s explosion which rocked the state capital, Ibadan.

At the commencement of the sitting at the National Assembly, Akiba moved the motion to compel the ministry to refund the funds appropriated to it.

The committee adopted the motion after it was seconded and directed that the ministry refund the said funds to the coffers of the Federal Government.

In his earlier remark, the chairman of the committee, Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun State), lamented that despite the series of invitations extended to the ministry, its officials failed to show up.

Salam said, “The Federal Ministry of Trade, Industries and Investments got the sum of N75bn as COVID-19 intervention funds. The Public Account Committee has sent invitations to the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Investments three times, and none of the invitations was honoured.

“The federal ministry of trade was to make their appearance yesterday (Wednesday). That was the last opportunity given to them and there was no such appearance. N75bn was appropriated to them.

“The former Permanent Secretary and the current Permanent Secretary are affected by this motion to refund the sum of N75bn to the Federal Government as COVID-19 intervention funds which as far as we are concerned, has not been expended.”

The committee also mandated the Federal Ministry of Health to return N10bn meant for the production of COVID-19 vaccines, but which was not spent, to the Federal Government.

Unlike the trade ministry, the Ministry of Health sent a representative, the Permanent Secretary, Daju Kachallom, who informed the committee that the funds were domiciled with the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

The committee, however, directed that the money should be returned, stressing that the ministry might choose to reapply to the National Assembly for the money if it was still needed.

In a related development, the committee also directed the Director General of the Rural Electrification Agency, Salihijo Ahmed, to submit documents detailing the utilisation of the agency’s COVID-19 intervention funds.

The DG appeared before the committee at the investigative hearing and requested more time to submit relevant documents.

The committee told the agency to submit the documents on Friday before the close of work and reappear before it on Monday at 10 am.

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