Lawmakers in the Federal House of Representatives on Wednesday issued a 72-hours ultimatum to the Accountant General of the Federation, Mrs Oluwatoyin Madein to submit detailed report on the use of the N100 billion COVID-19 intervention funds approved and released by the previous government of Major General, Muhammadu Buhari to Ministries, Departments and Agencies between 2020 and 2022.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Bamidele Salam who issued the notice in Abuja expressed dismay at the AGF’s refusal to comply with the resolution of the Committee to submit the report on the 27th October, 2023.
He noted that the House had mandated the Committee to investigate the “expenditure incurred under the COVID-19 interventions especially in the year 2020 and up to 2022.”
He stated, “A letter was written to the Accountant General to furnish the committee with details of all releases pursuant to the provisions of the Appropriation Act as well as other interventions captured by the released from Central Bank of Nigeria to different Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.
“That letter, I was duly informed, showed that submission is expected on or before October 27, 2023.
“As we speak, that input has not been received from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
“That is a very important document that will guide our proceedings on the investigation the house mandated us to carry out within a timeframe.
“So, we are sending you (Deputy Director in the Office of the AGF) now to go back home and let the Accountant General know that she has defaulted at the request of the committee. We said on or before 27th that if there are any objective reasons why she couldn’t meet up with that date, she should communicate to this committee to ask for the extension of time.”
Consequently, he directed the AGF to transmit the report before the close of work on Friday, 3rd November, 2023.
The House resolution was passed following the adoption of a motion on the ‘Alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 intervention funds from 2020 to 2022′, approved by the Federal Government for various Ministries, Departments and Agencies between 2020 and 2022.
Leading the debate on the motion, Nyampa Zakari who underscored the role of the lawmakers in unmasking corruption in the use of public funds, llamented that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the loss of lives, jobs and economic opportunities for millions of citizens including Nigerians.
“The House notes that the COVID–19 pandemic disrupted economic activities, leading to global measures such as lockdowns, travel restrictions, business closures, and government shutdowns to control the virus’ spread.
“The House is cognizant that the disruption of economic activities necessitated the introduction of various programs, policies, and interventions to alleviate and boost the economies of families, small businesses, and public corporations.
“The House is mindful that the Federal Government of Nigeria initiated several measures including budgetary provisions as well as funding from International donor agencies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic on the citizens.
“The House is also aware that a sum of N83.9 billion was appropriated for the COVID-19 response in the 2020 Appropriation Act as well as another sum of over N100 billion as intervention funds through supplementary budget and international donor agencies.
“The House is disturbed that the Auditor-General’s report and other sources reveal that significant funds for COVID-19 palliatives and international donations were diverted and unaccounted for by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government.
“The House is concerned that the lack of proper accountability of funds allocated for COVID-19 intervention by the Federal Government and global donor agencies could potentially lead to negative economic ratings and loss of opportunities for Nigeria,” Hon. Zakari noted.
Making his contribution to the debate, House member, Ahmed Jaha lamented that the amount expended in managing COVID-19 in Nigeria could have done much for them if it was utilized responsively.
He called in the House to go the whole distance to investigate the management of the intervention funds.