Reps order Health Ministry to refund N10bn meant for COVID-19 vaccines

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By Aaron Ossai

The House of Representatives has ordered the Federal Ministry of Health to refund the sum of N10 billion meant to produce COVID-19 vaccines at a time the epidemic was ravaging the globe.

The Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Bamidele Salam who gave the order when officials of the Ministry appeared before the Committee following Auditor General’s query said the Ministry has seven days to show evidence that the money has been returned to government treasury.

He said it was wrong for such a huge amount to have been kept idle for such a long time when the government was sourcing funds to solve immediate pressing needs.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mrs. Daju Kacholom who appeared on behalf of the Minister of Health had told members of the Committee that the N10 billion which was released to the Ministry since December 2020 for the production of COVID-19 vaccines has been with the Accountant General of the Federation waiting to be utilized.

She said that the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Bank of Industry and Biotech Company had met recently to brainstorm on how to utilize the money adding however that as at the time of her appearance, the was still domiciled with the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

Adopting a motion moved by one of the Committee members, members at the sitting unanimously agreed that the money should be returned to government treasury within seven days and evidence of return made available to the Secretariat of the Committee.

It would be recalled that the House of Representatives had begun an investigative hearing on the alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 Intervention Funds expended between 2020 and 2022.

This series of hearings organised by the House Public Accounts Committee (PAC) would be held between Wednesday, January 17 and Friday January 26, 2024.

In a communication on the hearing, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, PAC, Hon. Bamidele Salam highlighted 59 Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Parastatals of Government issued notices to appear before the Committee based on a schedule of appearance previously made public.