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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Reps Public Accounts Committee demands refund of misappropriated COVID-19 funds

The House of Representatives committee directs the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investments to repay N75bn and instructs the Ministry of Health to return N10bn allocated for COVID-19 vaccine production.

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The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee has ordered the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investments to refund N75bn earmarked as COVID-19 intervention funds. Simultaneously, the committee directed the Ministry of Health to return the N10bn released for the production of COVID-19 vaccines. This resolution ensued from the non-appearance of ministry officials at the committee’s investigative hearing.

The motion compelling the repayment was initiated by Bassey Akiba, a member of the Labour Party from Cross River State, who expressed concerns over the absence of ministry representatives despite multiple invitations. The committee had invited 59 ministries, departments, and agencies for an investigative hearing on the alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 funds.

Chairman of the committee, Bamidele Salam, lamented the lack of cooperation from the Ministry of Trade, Industries, and Investments. Salam emphasized, “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.”

While the Ministry of Health sent a representative, Permanent Secretary Daju Kachallom, who clarified that the funds were with the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, the committee directed the ministry to return the unspent N10bn. They noted that the ministry could reapply to the National Assembly if the funds were still required.

In another development, the committee instructed the Director-General of the Rural Electrification Agency, Salihijo Ahmed, to submit documents detailing the utilization of the agency’s COVID-19 intervention funds. Ahmed was given until Friday to submit the necessary documents and is set to reappear before the committee on Monday at 10 am.

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