Reps Order Ministries to Return N85 billion COVID-19 Funds

On Thursday, the House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee directed the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Investments to refund N75 billion in COVID-19 intervention funds.

The ruling followed a motion filed by Cross River State Labour Party member Bassey Akiba after ministry representatives failed to appear for their Thursday investigative session.

PAC, in a recent communication, requested 59 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies to appear before it to begin a probe into the alleged abuse of funds allocated to battle the corona virus outbreak.

Originally scheduled for Wednesday, January 17, the House moved it to Thursday to express condolences with the government and people of Oyo State following Tuesday’s explosion in the state capital, Ibadan.

At the start of the National Assembly session, Akiba presented a resolution to require the ministry to repay the funds allotted to it.

The committee approved the resolution after it was seconded and instructed that the ministry repay the monies to the Federal Government’s coffers.

In his previous statement, the Committee’s Chairman, Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun State), noted that despite many invitations made to the Ministry, its personnel did not show up.

Salam said, “The Federal Ministry of Trade, Industries and Investments got the sum of N75bn as COVID-19 Intervention funds. The Public Account Committee has sent invitations to the Ministry of Trade Industries and Investments three times, and none of the invitations was honoured.

“The Federal Ministry of Trade was to make their appearance yesterday (Wednesday). That was the last opportunity given to them and there was no such appearance. N75bn Naira was appropriated to them.

“Former Permanent Secretary and the current Permanent Secretary are affected by this motion to refund the sum of N75bn back to the Federal Government as COVID-19 intervention funds which as far as we are concerned,has not been expended.”

This comes as the committee instructed the Federal Ministry of Health to refund N10 billion earmarked for COVID-19 vaccine development but not spent to the Federal Government.

Unlike the Trade Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Health dispatched a representative, Permanent Secretary Daju Kachallom, who informed the Committee that the money were held in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

The committee, however, instructed that the money be returned, emphasizing that the Ministry may reapply to the National Assembly for the funds if they are still required.

In a related event, the Committee instructed the Director General of the Rural Electrification Agency, Salihijo Ahmed, to produce documentation showing the agency’s use of COVID-19 Intervention money.

The DG came before the Committee at the investigative session and asked extra time to provide pertinent papers.

The Committee instructed the agency to provide the materials by Friday before the close of business and return on Monday at 10 a.m.

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