Buhari Should Probe Missing N3.8bn in Health Ministry, NAFDAC—SERAP

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami and the appropriate anti-corruption agencies to probe allegations that N3,836,685,213.13 of public funds meant for the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, and National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was missing, mismanaged, diverted or stolen.

In a letter dated January 2, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said the allegations are documented in Part 1 of the 2018 audited report released last week by the Office of the AGF.

The organisation also urged him to “promptly investigate the extent and patterns of widespread corruption in the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, neuro-psychiatric hospitals, National Health Insurance Scheme, and NAFDAC indicted in the audited report, and to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in the health sector.

“Corruption in the health sector can cause serious harm to individuals and society, especially the most vulnerable sectors of the population. These missing funds could have been used to provide access to quality healthcare for Nigerians, and meet the requirements of the National Health Act, especially at a time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.

According to SERAP, “The Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja spent without approval N13,910,000.00 to organise a 2-day Training and Bilateral discussion with Chief Medical Directors and Chairmen Medical Advisory Council and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to prepare 2019 Personnel Budget N4,860,000.00 was originally budgeted for the programme.”

SERAP said: “The National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) paid N48,885,845.00 for services not rendered and goods not supplied. According to the Auditor-General, NAFDAC used fake and fictitious receipts for these payments. NAFDAC also paid N25,734,018.49 to companies/firms who were never awarded any contracts and never executed them.”

The letter, read in part: “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.”

“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.”

“Similarly, the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Management Board Aro-Abeokuta, Ogun State failed to account for N28,662,265.32, which was to be used to procure drugs, implants, and other inputs, as approved by the Federal Government. The Auditor-General wants the money returned to the treasury.”

“The National Health Insurance Scheme spent N355,510,475.00 on projects between 2016 and 2017 without appropriation. The Scheme also spent N32,299,700.00 to provide ‘financial medical assistance’ to individuals who have not been enrolled into the scheme (NHIS).”

“The Scheme also spent N72,383,000.00 on verification exercise without any supporting documents. The Scheme awarded contracts of N66,798,948.12 to members of staff for procurements, instead of making the procurement through the award of contracts.”

“The Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Enugu, Enugu State paid N5,200,000.00 as salary advance to the Medical Director. However, the Medical Director was neither proceeding on transfer, on posting nor on the first appointment to qualify for a salary advance. The Auditor-General is asking the Medical Director to refund the money collected. Another N3,387,139.00 is said to be missing but the Hospital management has failed to report the case, or recover the money.”

“The Irreal Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua Edo State paid N58,829,426.84 to two contractors for supplies and installations but without payment vouchers.”

“Also, Jos University Teaching Hospital Jos, Plateau State failed to remit N333,386,549.15 being 25% of its internally generated revenue of N1,333,546,196.60 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Hospital also failed to account for N8,572,777.25.”

“The Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, failed to remit N945,422,478.23 to the appropriate tax authority. The Hospital also failed to remit N237,007,828.05 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and failed to remit N22,307,735.21 being withholding tax deducted from contracts in 2018.”

“The Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State also failed to remit N8,519,506.75 being 25% of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Medical Centre also spent N542,877,312.77 as personnel cost between 2015 and 2016 instead of N12,761,350,337.00 appropriated for the same period.

“The Medical Centre failed to account for N898,076,719.14 of its internally generated revenue, and failed to account for N23,598,074.38 of personnel cost. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Abuja spent without approval N19,564,429.91 as estacode allowance to the various staff of the agency.”

“The Federal School of Occupational Therapy, Oshodi, Lagos failed to remit N3,250,962.98 of its internally generated revenue for 2018 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The School also failed to remit N4,018,252.81 being funds deducted from various contracts. It spent N10,507,393.00 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.”

“The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria failed to remit N68,604,040.68 of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.”

“Allegations of corruption in the health sector undermine public confidence in the sector, and obstruct the attainment of commitments made through Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 16 to create effective and accountable institutions.

“The allegations also show that Nigeria is failing to fulfil the obligations to use its maximum available resources to progressively realize and achieve basic healthcare services for Nigerians.”

“We would be grateful if your government would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in the health sector.”

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