A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Sunday demanded the immediate probe of allegations of missing funds meant for the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, and National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
SERAP quoted the contents of the 2018 audited report it said was published last week by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation that a total of N3.84billion of public funds were declared either “missing, mismanaged, diverted or stolen” by some Ministry officials.
In the letter dated January 2, 2021, SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the appropriate anti-graft agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Offences Commission (ICPC) to probe the allegation.
Mr Oluwadare said monumental the corruption reported in the health sector in the country was capable of causing serious harm to individuals and the entire society, especially the most vulnerable sectors of the population currently facing terrible conditions as a result of the impact of COVD-19. Also, the group wants the President to order the Minister and the agencies to “promptly investigate the extent and patterns of the widespread corruption in the various medical centres, neuro-psychiatric hospitals, and National Health Insurance Scheme, captured in the audited report, to unravel and clean up the entrenched system of corruption in the health sector in the country.
The group said alleged missing funds could have been used to provide access to quality healthcare for Nigerians, as well as meet the requirements of the National Health Act, especially at a time of the devastation of the economy by COVID-19 pandemic.
SERAP quoted the audit report that showed Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja spent without approval about N13.91million to organize a two-day Training and Bilateral discussion with Chief Medical Directors and Chairmen Medical Advisory Council and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning over the preparation of the 2019 Personnel Budget.
The group said the report revealed that only ₦4.86million was originally budgeted for the programme by its organisers.
On its part, SERAP said the audit report also showed that NAFDAC paid out about N48.9million for services that were discovered were not rendered and goods not supplied.
SERAP said the Auditor-General report accused NAFDAC of using fake and fictitious receipts to retire these payments, apart from the payment of another N25.73million to fictitious companies/firms that were neither awarded any contracts nor ever executed them.
“Investigating and prosecuting the allegations of corruption by these institutions would improve the chances of success of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators, as well as serve the public interest,” SERAP said in its letter.
“Any failure to promptly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators, and to recover the missing public funds would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the UN Convention against Corruption, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party,” the group added.
Similarly, SERAP said the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Management Board Aro-Abeokuta, Ogun State also failed to account for about N28.7million said to have been used in procuring drugs, implants, and other inputs, as approved by the Federal Government.
For the National Health Insurance Scheme, SERAP quoted the report as saying about N355.5million was spent on projects between 2016 and 2017 without appropriation.
Besides, the report said the Scheme also spent about N32.3million in providing ‘financial medical assistance’ to individuals not enrolled in the NHIS.
In addition, the report said the Scheme also spent about N72.4million on verification exercise without any supporting documents as well as awarding contracts of about N66.8million to members of staff for procurements, rather than procuring such services through an official contracting process.
Also, the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Enugu, Enugu State allegedly paid about N5.2million as salary advance to the Medical Director without him neither proceeding on transfer on posting nor on the first appointment to qualify for a salary advance.
While the Auditor-General asked in the report that the Medical Director refunded the money collected, another N3.4million was reportedly missing without the Hospital management making an official report about the incident, or made efforts to recover the money.
The report, SERAP said, also revealed that the Irreal Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua Edo State paid about N58.8million to two contractors for supplies and installation of equipment without payment vouchers.
On Jos University Teaching Hospital, Plateau State, SERAP said the management failed to remit N333.4million to the coffers of the Consolidated Revenue Fund government, being 25% of its internally generated revenue of N1.33billion, apart from failure to account for about N86million.
For the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, the report said it failed to remit about ₦945.4million to the appropriate tax authorities, apart from another ₦237.008 million that was not remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Another ₦22.31million withholding tax deducted from contracts in 2018 was not remitted.
Other health institutions that the report mentioned including the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State for failure to remit ₦8.5million, being 25% of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
The Medical Centre alleged also spent ₦542.9million as personnel cost between 2015 and 2016 instead of ₦12.8 million appropriated for the same period.
The report said about ₦898.1million of the internally generated revenue by the Medical Centre was not accounted account for, apart from another ₦23.6million of personnel cost.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Abuja was also said to have spent without approval the sum of N19.6million as estacode allowance to the various staff of the Agency.
Other institutions accused of not remitting the revenue in its position include the Federal School of Occupational Therapy, Oshodi, Lagos, which failed to remit ₦3.25million of its internally generated revenue for 2018 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
SERAP said the School also failed to remit about N4.018million being funds deducted from various contracts, after spending ₦10.5million without any appropriation or approval.
“The Federal Medical Centre, Keffi Nasarawa State failed to remit N2,147,036.00 of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It also failed to remit N5,810,438.05 to the Federal Inland Revenue Service, while the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria failed to remit N68,604,040.68 of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund,” SERAP said in its letter.