Nigeria: COVID-19 - ICPC Commences Investigation Into Distribution of Funds, Palliatives

The anti-graft agency, ICPC, says it has commenced investigations into alleged cases of corruption in the management of COVID-19 funds and palliatives.

The ICPC Director of Operations, Akeem Lawal, said this on Thursday during a virtual meeting of stakeholders.

Mr Lawal said there are allegations of fraud by some participating public institutions in the release and distribution of grains from strategic food reserve to "financially exploit local governments."

He said, the cases include alleged infractions in the procurement of COVID-19 palliatives and logistics and community enlightenment activities.

He said there was also an allegation of diversion of "COVID-19 logistics and contingency emergency fund into personal account."

"In all cases of infraction, culprits will be investigated and prosecuted," the director said.

He added that the ICPC was also monitoring the distribution of money and food under the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme and the Home School Feeding Programme.

Mr Lawal stated that the commission's intervention in the COVID-19 fund management was pursuant to its corruption prevention, enforcement and public sensitisation mandate.

He said the aim was to ensure transparency and accountability in the utilisation of the funds as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Special Adviser to the President on School Feeding Programme, Dotun Adebayo, during the web meeting, disclosed that the government was targeting 3,131,971 households in the Home School Feeding Programme.

He added that each household would get a food ration package worth N4,200 on the presumption of an average of three children per household.

According to him, a package contains five kilogrammes each of rice and beans; 500 milligrammes of vegetable oil, 750 milligrammes of palm oil, 500 gramme of salt, 15 eggs and 140 grammes of tomato paste.

"We normally expend N1,400 per child per 20 days when schools are open

"Fortunately, we had existing fund to cover 20-day circle in April for 35 states before schools were closed due to the COVId-19 lockdown," he said.

The presidential aide said the government was leveraging the existing structure of the programme to deliver the food items to the beneficiaries.

As a result of the economic fallout triggered by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had in March, announced a N50 billion intervention fund as a stimulus package to support households and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in order to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

Similarly, the Private sector coalition against COVID-19 (CACOVID), led Aliko Dangote, in April set aside N23 billion out of the N27.16 billion total donation to purchase food items and reach out to 10 million vulnerable Nigerians.

According to the group, the distribution of the food items will be done over the next few days to reach at least 1.67 million households in all 774 local government areas in the country.

The ICPC chairman, Bolaji Owasanoye, in his address said that the commission also in March, issued an advisory on response management for COVID-19 fund.

"We followed it up by setting a committee to monitor the use of contribution and funds during the emergency because such period could trigger higher level of corruption.

"We appointed observers at a request of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to focus on some key MDAs who will be involved in procurement and in response to COVID-19.

"We followed it up by issuing some prevention guidelines which were not mandatory but took from financial regulations and laws to guide MDAs on what we will be doing.

"The Accountant-General Office, followed by issuing very comprehensive frameworks for the management of COVID-19 fund under the treasury single account (TSA)," he said.

The chairman, therefore, assured that the commission would monitor all donations made by the private sector to ensure transparency and accountability.

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