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‘Probe missing N3.8bn in health ministry, NAFDAC, others’, SERAP tells Buhari

‘Probe missing N3.8bn in health ministry, NAFDAC, others’, SERAP tells Buhari

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari “to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to probe allegations that N3,836,685,213.13 of public funds meant for the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, and National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are missing, mismanaged, diverted or stolen.”

 

The organization said the allegations are documented in Part 1 of the 2018 audited report released last week by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.

 

The organization is also urging him to “promptly investigate the extent and patterns of widespread corruption in the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, neuro-psychiatric hospitals, National Health Insurance Scheme, and NAFDAC indicted in the audited report, and to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in the health sector.”

 

In the letter dated 2 January 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Corruption in the health sector can cause serious harm to individuals and society, especially the most vulnerable sectors of the population. These missing funds could have been used to provide access to quality healthcare for Nigerians, and meet the requirements of the National Health Act, especially at a time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

 

According to SERAP, “The Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja spent without approval N13,910,000.00 to organize a 2-day Training and Bilateral discussion with Chief Medical Directors and Chairmen Medical Advisory Council and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to prepare 2019 Personnel Budget. ₦4,860,000.00 was originally budgeted for the programme.”

 

SERAP said: “The National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) paid N48,885,845.00 for services not rendered and goods not supplied. According to the Auditor-General, NAFDAC used fake and fictitious receipts for these payments. NAFDAC also paid N25,734,018.49 to companies/firms who were never awarded any contracts and never executed them.”

 

The letter, read in part: “Investigating and prosecuting the allegations of corruption by these institutions would improve the chances of success of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators, as well as serve the public interest.”

 

“Any failure to promptly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators, and to recover the missing public funds would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the UN Convention against Corruption, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

 

“Similarly, the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Management Board Aro-Abeokuta, Ogun State failed to account for N28,662,265.32, which was to be used to procure drugs, implants, and other inputs, as approved by the Federal Government. The Auditor-General wants the money returned to the treasury.”

 

“The National Health Insurance Scheme spent N355,510,475.00 on projects between 2016 and 2017 without appropriation. The Scheme also spent N32,299,700.00 to provide ‘financial medical assistance’ to individuals who have not been enrolled into the scheme (NHIS).”

 

“The Scheme also spent N72,383,000.00 on verification exercise without any supporting documents. The Scheme awarded contracts of N66,798,948.12 to members of staff for procurements, instead of making the procurement through award of contracts.”

 

“The Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Enugu, Enugu State paid N5,200,000.00 as salary advance to the Medical Director. However, the Medical Director was neither proceeding on transfer, on posting nor on first appointment to qualify for salary advance. The Auditor-General is asking the Medical Director to refund the money collected. Another N3,387,139.00 is said to be missing but the Hospital management has failed to report the case, or recover the money.”

 

“The Irreal Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua Edo State paid N58,829,426.84 to two contractors for supplies and installations but without payment vouchers.”

 

“Also, Jos University Teaching Hospital Jos, Plateau State failed to remit N333,386,549.15 being 25% of its internally generated revenue of N1,333,546,196.60 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Hospital also failed to account for N8,572,777.25.”

 

“The Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, failed to remit ₦945,422,478.23 to appropriate tax authority. The Hospital also failed to remit ₦237,007,828.05 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and failed to remit ₦22,307,735.21 being withholding tax deducted from contracts in 2018.”

 

“The Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State also failed to remit ₦8,519,506.75 being 25% of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Medical Centre also spent ₦542,877,312.77 as personnel cost between 2015 and 2016 instead of ₦12,761,350,337.00 appropriated for the same period.

 

“The Medical Centre failed to account for ₦898,076,719.14 of its internally generated revenue, and failed to account for ₦23,598,074.38 of personnel cost. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Abuja spent without approval N19,564,429.91 as estacode allowance to various staff of the Agency.”

 

“The Federal School of Occupational Therapy, Oshodi, Lagos failed to remit ₦3,250,962.98 of its internally generated revenue for 2018 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The School also failed to remit N4,018,252.81 being funds deducted from various contracts. It spent ₦10,507,393.00 without any appropriation or approval.”

 

“The Federal Medical Centre, Keffi Nasarawa State failed to remit N2,147,036.00 of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It also failed to remit N5,810,438.05 to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.”

 

“The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria failed to remit N68,604,040.68 of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.”

 

“Allegations of corruption in the health sector undermine public confidence in the sector, and obstruct the attainment of commitments made through Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 16 to create effective and accountable institutions. The allegations also show that Nigeria is failing to fulfil the obligations to use its maximum available resources to progressively realize and achieve basic healthcare services for Nigerians.”

 

“We would be grateful if your government would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

 

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in the health sector.”

 

The letter is copied to Mr Abubakar Malami, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, and Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

 

 

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

3/1/2021

Lagos, Nigeria

Emails: info@serap-nigeria.org; news@serap-nigeria.org

Twitter: @SERAPNigeria

Website: www.serap-nigeria.org

For more information or to request an interview, please contact us on: +2348160537202

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Insecurity: Disclose security votes spending for 2021, SERAP tells Buhari, 36 governors

Insecurity: Disclose security votes spending for 2021, SERAP tells Buhari, 36 governors

 

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information requests to President Muhammadu Buhari and 36 state governors urging them to “disclose details of proposed ‘security votes’ spending in your 2021 appropriation bills to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians, and to explain the measures your governments are putting in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes.”

 

SERAP said: “In the wake of the abduction of over 300 students from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, and ongoing security challenges in several parts of the country, the time has come to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant to secure people’s lives and property.”

 

In the FoI requests dated 26 December, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Disclosing details of spending as security votes for 2021 would serve to engage the Nigerian people in an honest conversation about the security challenges confronting the country, and what the federal and state governments are doing to respond to them. This is a legitimate public interest matter.”

 

SERAP also said: “While SERAP understands that authorities may keep certain matters of operational secrets from the people in the name of national security, there is no constitutional or legal basis to hide basic information on public spending from the people.”

 

SERAP expressed “concerns that the intense secrecy and lack of meaningful oversight of the government’s spending of security votes have for many years contributed to mismanagement and large-scale corruption in the sector, as well as limited the ability of the people to hold high-ranking public officials to account for their constitutional responsibility to ensure the security and welfare of the people.”

 

According to SERAP: “Your government’s responsibility to guarantee and ensure the security and welfare of the Nigerian people is closely interlinked with your responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office. This imposes a fundamental obligation to promote transparency and accountability in security votes spending, and to remove opportunities for corruption.”

 

The FoI requests, read in part: “Nigerians have the right to know what the government is doing in their name. The framers of the Nigerian Constitution never contemplated opaque spending of public funds as security votes. Transparency and accountability would ensure that the policies and action that the government will pursue to guarantee the security of Nigerians are truly relevant and effective in keeping them safe.”

 

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal action under the Nigerian Constitution, the Freedom of Information Act, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our request.”

 

“Successive governments have failed to effectively discharge their primary and constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians. This is patently contrary to Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution, which provides that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’”

 

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, the country’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified both human rights treaties.”

 

“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act 2011, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, applicable throughout Nigeria, there are transparency obligations imposed on your government to disclose information to the public concerning your proposed security votes spending for 2021.”

 

“The Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act, and the human rights treaties rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their government’s activities.”

 

 

 

 

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

27/12/2020

Lagos, Nigeria

Emails: info@serap-nigeria.org; news@serap-nigeria.org

Twitter: @SERAPNigeria

Website: www.serap-nigeria.org

For more information or to request an interview, please contact us on: +2348160537202

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COVID-19: ‘Reverse cut in health budget or face legal action’, SERAP tells Buhari, NASS

COVID-19: ‘Reverse cut in health budget or face legal action’, SERAP tells Buhari, NASS

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given “the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and leadership of the National Assembly 14 days to reverse the proposed illegal cut of N26.51 billion in basic healthcare budget and to cut the National Assembly and Presidency budgets instead, or face legal action.”

SERAP is also calling on them to meet to “reverse the proposed illegal cut of N50.76 billion in the education budget. There is currently no proposal to cut the National Assembly and Presidency budgets.”

In the letters dated 18 April, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization expressed: “concern about the scale of the cuts in basic healthcare and education budgets and their disproportionate impact on the poorest. These cuts are not inevitable. The authorities have a lot of choices as to what to cut but chose to balance the budget on the backs of the most disadvantaged.”

According to SERAP, “The cuts would leave the poorest and most vulnerable people without access to these essential public goods and services, and without anywhere to turn, and despite the COVID-19 crisis. This would put both the government and the National Assembly in breach of their constitutional and international human rights and anti-corruption obligations.”

The letters addressed to President Buhari, Dr Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, read in part: “Continuing to neglect these basic public goods and services to sustain the apparently lavish lifestyles of members of the National Assembly and other powerful politicians wound exacerbate poverty, inequality, marginalization and impunity in the country.”

“The COVID-19 crisis is a good opportunity to cut the costs of governance, particularly the unsustainable spending on the National Assembly expenses, and the Presidency budget, and to focus on increasing budget allocations to healthcare and education.”

“The authorities’ approach to National Assembly and Presidency budgets ought to be ‘do more with less.’ While we understand that the country is facing difficult choices in budget allocations, the authorities should have prioritised cuts in National Assembly and Presidency budgets to increase the allocations to healthcare and education.”

“If the cuts are sustained, Nigerians will become justified in thinking that the government and the leadership of the National Assembly do not really care about improving access of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people to basic public services like healthcare and education.”

“Cutting basic healthcare budget, especially at a time of COVID-19 crisis in the country, will undermine the ability of your government to effectively and satisfactorily respond to the crisis and to protect Nigerians and ensure their well-being. Cutting education budget would mean that 16 million out-of-school Nigerian children would remain on the street for many years to come.”

“Basic healthcare and education should not bear the brunt of your government’s efforts to balance the 2020 budget. Cutting basic healthcare budget would exacerbate the effects of COVID-19, have long-term consequences for the well-being of Nigerians, and violate the government’s constitutional and international human rights obligations to the people.”

“Any perceived budget crisis does not excuse this flagrant violation of constitutional law and international standards. Any budget cuts to healthcare and the Universal Basic Education Commission will only worsen Nigeria’s ailing health and education sectors.”

“These essential public goods and services must be protected even during these lean budget times. Doing the opposite would cause significant health challenges to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

“Disproportionate cuts in healthcare and education budgets will also continue to deny Nigerians particularly the poorest and the most vulnerable people access to effective and functioning public healthcare and education services.”

“SERAP proposes cutting among others, the following aspects of the National Assembly and Presidency budgets: the N15 million monthly allowances/running costs per senator, about N10 million monthly allowances/running costs per member of the House of Representatives, as well as budgets for the Presidency on travel, feeding, and vehicles.”

“Other aspects of the National Assembly budget revealed by the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), and which SERAP proposes should be cut include the following: basic salary (N2,484,245.50); hardship allowance (N1,242, 122.70); constituency allowance (N4,968, 509.00); furniture allowance (N7, 452, 736.50); and wardrobe allowance (N621,061.37).”

“Others include: recess allowance (N248,424.55); accommodation (N4,968,509.00); utilities allowance (N828,081.83); entertainment (N828,081.83); vehicle maintenance allowance (N1,863,184.12); leave allowance (N248,424.55); severance gratuity (N7, 425,736.50); and motor vehicle allowance (N9, 936,982.00).”

“Continuing to spend scarce public funds on these expenses would deny the most disadvantaged access to public goods and services, and burden the next generation.”

“SERAP further urges you to instruct Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to work with the leadership of the National Assembly to work out the details of cuts to National Assembly and Presidency budgets, and the reversal of the cuts to basic healthcare and education.”

“According to our information, your government has proposed to drastically cut basic healthcare budget by N26.51 billion, that is, from the N44.49 billion initially budgeted down to just N17.98 billion. Your government has also proposed to cut education budget by N50.76 billion, that is, from the N111.78 billion initially budgeted for UBEC down to just to N61.02 billion.”

“SERAP notes that access to basic healthcare is closely related to and dependent upon the realization of other human rights, including the right to education, human dignity, life, non-discrimination, equality, and access to information. These and other rights and freedoms address integral components of the right to health.”

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

19/04/2020

Lagos, Nigeria

Emails: info@serap-nigeria.org; news@serap-nigeria.org

Twitter: @SERAPNigeria

Website: www.serap-nigeria.org

For more information or to request an interview, please contact Kolawole Oluwadare on: +2348160537202