- EFCC to descend on officials fingered
Paul Obi in Abuja
Following the global public outcry over the misappropriation of about $3.8 million Global Fund grants to Nigeria, the federal government monday set up a committee to thoroughly investigate the alleged stealing of the funds by government officials.
In a report by Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Geneva-based organisation said there were discrepancies in the audit report submitted by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA).
The indictment came barely two years after accusations by Global Vaccine Alliance Initiatives (GAVI) of Nigeria’s shady handling of about $8.2 million.
The current Global Fund indictment indicated that between 2010 and 2014, the Nigerian government misappropriated the sum of $3.8 million earmarked for technological-based platforms and other logistics for interventions in HIV/AIDS programmes in the country.
Contrary, the federal government in a statement yesterday said it would go the whole hog to fish out those culpable in the alleged looting of the funds.
According to the Director of Press and Public Relations, Boade Akinola, “the federal government of Nigeria has directed the anti-corruption agency, Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to commence full investigation of the alleged misappropriation of Global fund Grants Nigeria received from 2010 – 2014.
“This was revealed today by the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole who said: “President Muhammadu Buhari gave the directive as part of government’s effort and commitment to fight corruption in the country. The president has also directed the Secretary to the Government of Federation (SGF) to review earlier audit reports from the Office of Inspector General (OIG),” she said.
To that effect, Akinola stated that “the SGF has set-up two high-powered investigative panels to look into the affected programmes and the financial transactions. The first panel headed by the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, will conduct in-depth review of all programmes while the second panel chaired by Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Ukura, will review all financial transactions during the period. The two committees were expected to submit their reports within four weeks.
“Mr. President assured members of the international community that all funds received by Nigeria would be well utilised and accounted for under his watch to avoid national embarrassment,” he said.
“He further said that all indicted officials would be given fair hearing and those found guilty would be sanctioned to serve as deterrent to others.
“The recent OIG report by Global Fund indicted three agencies of Federal Government of Nigeria for misappropriation of specific intervention grants released,” Akinola stressed.
But speaking with THISDAY, Executive Director, Socio-Economic Right Accountability Project (SERAP), Adetokunbo Mumuni said the naked display of corruption cut across different sectors but not limited the health sector.
“The global fund of diversion is mere repeating what the overwhelming majority Nigerians already know. It is not limited to the health sector alone. Corruption, diversion of funds and shamelessness in the display of stolen funds had been the fad since at least the time of Babangida regime up till the immediate pass regime.
“The sincere hope is that the present regime will stem this criminal tide and bring whoever is fingered to justice according to due process of law and further as a socio-economic rights activist my opinion is that real and true justice to the overwhelming majority of the economically pauperised Nigerians who are the victims of corruption, should not merely end in sentence of imprisonment to the perpetrators of these acts of corruption, that will simply be legal justice. It is the recovery of the stolen proceeds of corruption from the perpetrators that will serve the ends of social and economic justice to Nigeria,” Mumuni said.
Further, THISDAY checks revealed that Nigeria’s future regarding sourcing for funds from foreign donors now appears bleak.
The withdrawal of GAVI which resulted in Nigeria refunding the looted sum of $2.2 million, the anticipated withdrawal of the United States government from funding Nigeria’s HIV/ADIS programmes and the Global Fund indictment of the government have worsened Nigeria’s chances to seek foreign funding in the midst of economic recession and plummeted global oil price.
Conversely, NACA officials said: “Information carried in the media a few days ago, that the Global Fund, a Health Financing Institution, which supports Nigeria, among other countries to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has not suspended its support to HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria programs in Nigeria.”
The agency further stated that “the investigation confirmed the Local Fund Agent’s initial findings and found seven out of ten DPRS staff and three consultants were linked to the misappropriation of funds, including through inflating hotel bills, falsifying receipts, claiming expenditures for travel not taken, and colluding with and receiving kickbacks from hotels and suppliers.
“The OIG concluded that DPRS-FMOH did not have an effective system of internal controls to safeguard grant funds. Our checks also revealed that before the publication of the findings by Office of the Inspector General, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had been notified of the findings of alleged fraud and embezzlement of funds by the Department of Planning Research, Federal Ministry of Health and the EFCC had since commenced investigation of the issue,” NACA stressed.