Covid-19 Funds: Health Ministry Must Return Unspent Billions

The report of unutilised Covid-19 funds by Nigeria’s Ministry of Health is a matter of serious concern that demands urgent remedial action.

Development Diaries reports that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Representatives recently directed the Ministry of Health to return to the federal government the unspent ten billion naira meant for the production of Covid-19 vaccines.

It is understood that the instruction came after the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Daju Kachallom, appeared before the committee and submitted his paperwork, stating that the monies were held by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

The committee also directed the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments to refund N75 billion allocated to it as Covid-19 intervention funds.

The action taken by the ministries carries significant implications and must be properly looked into.

Recall that the PAC, in December 2023, began investigating the alleged mismanagement of the Covid-19 funds from 2020 to 2021 by the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and it uncovered infractions in the presentations submitted before it by some health institutions.

Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis in Nigeria, billions of naira have been donated by a number of people and organisations, including the European Union (EU), to help stop the virus’s spread within the country. However, there is no official record of the total amount of money donated.

The primary purpose of Covid-19 funds was to strengthen the health care system, including infrastructure, medical supplies, and personnel.

Since the funds were not utilised, it put additional strain on an already overburdened system, potentially leading to inadequate resources for patient care and pandemic management.

Failure to use the allocated funds also indicates a lack of preparedness to effectively respond to the evolving challenges of the pandemic.

Furthermore, the lack of transparency and accountability in fund allocation and usage further leads to an erosion of public trust in the government’s ability to manage health crises effectively, which decreases confidence in the government’s commitment to public welfare.

This development calls for a thorough and transparent investigation into the reasons behind the non-utilisation of the funds. This should involve an independent body to ensure credibility and impartiality.

Development Diaries calls on the House of Representatives to hold individuals and entities responsible for the lapse in fund utilisation accountable.

Additionally, there might be a need to evaluate existing policies and procedures related to emergency fund management and make necessary reforms to prevent similar issues in the future.

Photo source: Claude Nizeyimana


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