Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha on Monday admitted delay in the payment of the allowances of frontline health workers involved in the management of the pandemic.
The SGF, who spoke at a meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on Public Account, also explained that the PTF was not involved in the management of funds donated by the private sector and did not receive any cash donation from foreign donors.
He said the delay in the payment of the health workers was as a result of the discovery that the initial amount would not be sustainable, adding that negotiations with health workers on the new payment have been concluded.
Payments for April and May, he said, are currently being processed.
Mustapha, who was responding to a question on the truth behind the information that essential workers on the frontline were not being paid their correct money, said: “Yes, it is true. The negotiations got to a peak, but when the figures were looked at, it became quite impossible to be paid. So, they went back to the negotiating table.
“They have finally reached a decision and there is an agreement to pay them from the month of April and May. I think that was part of what you passed that was captured in the budget.”
On whether the management of funds donated by CACOVID is subject to public scrutiny, he said: “The way they operate, to the best of my knowledge because I interfaced with them, is that when they started, they had a steering committee and as chairman of the task force, I was privileged to be on the steering committee.
“They want to know our needs because if they don’t know our needs, they will not be able to supply the needs. So, in consultation with the Ministry of Health, the National Coordinator and Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), we harmonised our needs and we sent it out to them.
“They have also established structures within the CACOVID. They have finance, strategic and procurement committees. They also decided that, for the purpose of really monitoring these funds and for transparency and accountability, to appoint an international accounting firm that oversees the accounting processes so that at the end of the exercise, they will make a return to their donors because different organisations donated money.
“At the end of the whole exercise, they will submit their report to them for audit.”
On whether there is any government intervention in the management of the fund, he said: “Not to my knowledge because this is a private initiative and the government cannot take over a private initiative. The only thing they can do is to make sure that they retire the proceed and it is properly accounted for and that the donors are satisfied. That is the only thing we can do.”
On whether the N22 billion in the PTF account should be returned to the treasury, Mustapha said: “The money in the account is not even enough because of the procurement process and the kind of things we are trying to procure. More than half of that money is for the operation of the Ministry of Health and they need all that money to procure the things they are supposed to procure. It is very difficult.”
Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekwazu re-emphasised his earlier submission that Nigeria was still at the beginning of the pandemic, adding that considering returning finds already released to the agency to the treasury would be disservice to the nation considering what is going on in other countries.
But, the House summoned the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and the Federal Medical Centres in Ebutte Meta, Yenagoa, Makurdi and Keffi listed in the Permanent Secretary’s submission as having received fund for the pandemic to appear before the committee to show how they spent the money given to them.