By Rebecca Ejifoma
An indigenous logistics company, Zenith Carex, has written to the Federal Government requesting its intervention to recover over N67 million contract funds allegedly withheld by a United States organisation, Chemonics International, and its associates over the past two years.
The company claimed that the fund was the outstanding payment for a contract executed for Chemonics, which was said to have been contracted by Global Fund, an international organisation financing AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria prevention, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to execute and manage an integrated supply chain within Nigeria between 2017 and 2019.
Zenith Carex claimed that after the completion of the contract, which indicated Chemonics must in every 30 days pay for logistics carried out by their contractor, the United States organisation had allegedly refused to pay even after several requests were made.
Worried by the alleged refusal, the logistics company wrote a letter to the government through the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, dated August
27, 2020 and titled: ‘Imminent International Intimidation And Bilateral Blackmail of A Business Relationship/Partnership By Chemonics International INC SAII And Its Associates: An urgent request/application for your intervention, advice/guidance and amongst others.
In the letter signed by its CEO, Adelana Olamilekan, and made available to THISDAY, the company lamented that the withheld balance of its contract fee was affecting its operations.
The firm said during the period, all transactions were documented and consignments were delivered at the appropriate locations, and all paper works signed between both parties even when the international organisation was not fulfilling its own side of the bargain.
Among its requests are: “To intervene, investigate and interrogate the process with a view to unraveling the course of action after three years of successful hitch-free delivery without any form of query from their Nigeria office since inception of the contract.
“To guide and assist our company to recover the sum of over N67 million which was the sum of money owed us by Chemonics International Inc. Sall & Associates, which they seek to avoid paying by using antics. Falsehood and deception to evade payment.”
It further stated, “To also direct Chemonics and Sail to issue a letter of apology to us for embarrassment and inconveniences suffered as a result of their actions.”
Earlier, it was learnt that trouble started after Global Fund Nigeria Country team in April 2019 received a request for additional funds from Chemonics International to complete its task, citing some exigencies during the execution of the project.
The trouble was said to have become obvious when Zenith Carex demanded the payment of the balance of the projects it executed as stipulated in the contract agreement signed earlier in 2017. Rather than pay, Global fund wrote a petition to the OIG and alleged that the Nigeria logistic company allegedly defrauded its supported programs of US$3 million.
Global Fund in the petition added that Zenith systematically inflated invoices for the distribution of health commodities to warehouses and health facilities throughout Nigeria.
Rather than pay, the Global Fund went ahead to engage Local Fund Agent (LFA) to examine potential causes of the overspend and it was alleged that there were numerous unsupported sub-contractor expenditures made.
Reacting to the allegations of over N67m, Chemonics Spokesperson, Jane Gotiangco, wrote to THISDAY, “Zenith Carex was paid promptly over the past two years. However, in 2020, the Global Fund OIG investigation began and uncovered substantial improper billing and overcharging for services.
“In light of the serious allegations that Zenith submitted millions of dollars in fraudulent invoices related to the delivery of health commodities in Nigeria, the propriety of unpaid invoices is under careful review and we are exercising our legal right to setoff this payment based on the terms of our subcontract.”
She recounted to THISDAY how on March 9, 2021, the Global Fund’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report describing a serious and unacceptable breach of Chemonics’ policies and Standards of Business Conduct.
“We accept and have taken action to address the findings in the Global Fund’s OIG report. In March of 2020, we terminated our relationship with the contracted firm, Zenith Carex,” Gotiangco said.
As the OIG report noted, she said Chemonics cooperated closely with the investigation, starting as soon as we received the OIG’s initial request to review documents in July 2019.
“We have proactively collaborated with the Global Fund and USAID and joined the OIG on a field visit to Nigeria in February 2020. We also conducted our own internal investigation and shared findings with the Global Fund OIG and USAID OIG.
“Most notably, our operations procuring and delivering life-saving medicines to those in need were not impacted by this incident. In fact, we were able to successfully procure and deliver the commodities requested by the client and continue to fulfill our promises to our clients and beneficiaries.”