The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has summoned the Director General (DG), Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, over alleged payment of a part of a N9 billion federal government’s COVID-19 response intervention through the personal accounts of some of its staff.
The committee summoned the DG over the weekend based on an audit query by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, to give an account of the agency’s spending on COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021.
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Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun), said records have shown that the NCDC got N620 million for March to December 2020, N5 billion for March 2020 to March 2021 and N3.49 billion for January 2021 to September 2021 from the federal government to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oke said, from the documents and other submissions by the agency, parts of the money were paid into the private accounts of its staff which he said was against the procurement laws of Nigeria.
According to him, in two instances in 2020, N3.955 million was allegedly paid to one Kemisalo Odimayo for the establishment of additional sample collection space and N792, 000 was paid to one Musa Sokodabo for the construction of isolation and treatment centres in some states.
However, Adetifa directed the procurement officer of the agency, Dania Augustus, to explain why the payments were made to the staff of the agency.
The procurement officer explained that the funds were in some instances paid to the account of any staff who raised a memo for a particular expenditure.
Augustus added that it was more expedient to pay into the private accounts due to the urgency of the COVID-19 response at the time.
He said, “Musa is a desk officer. That is to say, he raised memos on issues and treated 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”.
However, members of the committee dismissed the explanations by the NCDC Procurement Officer, saying the action was a violation of procurement laws.
The Chairman of the committee said there was no justification for paying money through the personal account of any NCDC staff.
The Committee, therefore, demanded the agency to present all relevant records on how the funds were expended at the next sitting of the committee.
Similarly, officials of Julius Berger Nigeria, SETRACO and some other construction firms appeared before the committee over alleged tax evasion.