Reps give 2 federal ministries fresh directives over N85bn COVID-19 funds

On Thursday, the House of Representatives’ Public Accounts Committee asked the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investments to refund N75 billion in COVID-19 intervention money.

This came as the committee ordered the Ministry of Health to return the N10 billion allocated to it to create the COVID-19 vaccine.

The resolution followed a motion introduced by Bassey Akiba, a Labour Party member from Cross River State, in response to the absence of ministry officials from Thursday’s investigation hearing.

In a recent advertisement, the committee invited 59 ministries, divisions, and agencies to appear before it to begin an investigation into the suspected misappropriation of COVID-19 funding.

Originally scheduled for Wednesday, January 17, the House moved it to Thursday to sympathize with the administration and people of Oyo State following Tuesday’s explosion in the state capital, Ibadan.

Akiba presented a motion at the start of the National Assembly session to require the ministry to repay the cash appropriated to it.

The committee approved the resolution after it was seconded and directed that the ministry refund the monies to the Federal Government’s coffers.

In his previous statement, the chairman of the committee, Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun State), complained that despite the sequence of invitations made to the ministry, its representatives did not 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 directed the Federal Ministry of Health to return N10 billion that was intended for the development of COVID-19 vaccines but was not spent to the Federal Government.

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

The committee, on the other hand, instructed that the money be returned, emphasizing that the ministry may opt to reapply to the National Assembly for the funds if they are still required.

In a related move, the committee instructed the Director General of the Rural Electrification Agency, Salihijo Ahmed, to produce documentation showing the agency’s use of COVID-19 intervention money.

The DG came before the committee at the investigative session and asked extra time to submit necessary documents.

The committee directed the agency to submit the documents on Friday before the close of business and return to it on Monday at 10 a.m.

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