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    Reps probe N9bn COVID-19 fund paid into NCDC officials’ accounts

    The House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts is investigating the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control for paying part of the N9bn it received as special intervention fund from the Federal Government on COVID-19 into personal accounts of some members of its staff.

    The committee had on Friday grilled the Director-General of the NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, over the centre’s spending.

    Adetifa told the committee that the Federal Government, between March and December 2020, released to the NCDC N620m; March 2020 to March 2021, N5bn; and January 2021 to September 2021, N3.49bn.

    Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, however, raised the alarm over some irregularities in the disbursement of the funds, noting that some of the money were paid into the private accounts of some staff members.

    Oke cited two examples in 2020 where the sum of N3.95m was paid to one Kemisalo Odimayo for the establishment of an additional sample collection space and another sum of N792,000 paid to one Musa Sokodabo for the construction of isolation and treatment centres in some states.

    Adetifa, however, referred the query to NCDC’s procurement officer, Dania Augustus, who said money was usually paid into the account of any staff member who raised a memo for any expenditure.

    Augustus also said it was considered necessary to pay into the private accounts at the time due the urgency of the COVID-19 response.

    “Musa is a desk officer; that is to say he raises memos on issues and treats files and all that. What usually happens is that whoever raises a memo for an activity, when payment is to be made, so that accounts can track record of payment, the initiator of that memo, his name is usually used,” he said.

    Members of the committee, however, faulted the process as violating procurement laws.

    Oke particularly stated that there was no justification for paying such an amount of money to any worker directly.

    Consequently, the committee demanded all relevant records on how the funds were expended at the next hearing.

    Adetifa explained that the N9bn was used for renovation and construction of infectious diseases, treatment and isolation centres across Abuja and some states as well as construction of treatment of isolation and treatment centres, procurement of medical and laboratory equipment and logistics and supply chain.

    Other items of expenditure, he said, were recruitment of ad hoc staff and human resource support, procurement of lab supplies, response operations at national and state emergency operations centres, deployment of rapid response teams for outbreak investigation and response, training of health care workers on case management and surveillance, media and risk communications and tax, among others.

    Copyright PUNCH.

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