The Federal Government has commenced the probe of federal agencies and personnel as well as state governments over their expenditure of COVID-19 funds made available by the government and private individuals.
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This was disclosed during a virtual meeting of stakeholders on the COVID-19 Funds Management and Monitoring, which was organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) in collaboration with the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation on Thursday.
Ahmed Idris, the Accountant-General of the Federation, explained that his office has begun internal audit proceedings on all transactions concerning COVID-19 on all ministries, departments or agencies (MDA) involved, noting that all reports will be forwarded to its Audit Monitoring Department.
He stated that any MDA identified to have conducted untoward practices will be sanctioned and the name of its principal officers would be announced publicly to ensure transparency.
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He said: “Internal Audit procedures shall apply to all transactions relating to COVID-19 Funds. In the event that due to the urgent nature of expenditures under this fund, proper pre-payment audit was not carried out or even where proper pre-payment audit was carried out, internal auditors are mandated to carry out detailed post-payment audit and review of all transactions and to promptly forward their reports to the Audit Monitoring Department of the OAGF.
“A copy of their report shall be sent to the TSA Department to test the adequacy of the overall TSA architecture in re-enforcing internal controls and blocking leakages. Internal auditors are also to ensure that published reports give true and fair view of the underlying transactions and accounts.
“Any internal auditor that encounters any challenge in the discharge of his duties under this guideline should immediately report to the Accountant-General of the Federation in writing for the attention of the Director, Audit Monitoring. A copy of the report shall be sent to Director, Treasury Single Account.
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“Contravention of guidelines and sanctions, participating MDA are reminded that the COVID-19 Fund is a public fund in the truest sense of it. For that reason, the public is invested in ensuring that the funds are utilised in the most transparent and prudent manner.
“For this reason, any participating MDA that contravenes this guideline may be sanctioned from continued participation in the programme. Also, the name of the MDA and its principal officers shall be made public as an additional measure of transparency.”
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Also speaking, Akeem Lawal, the ICPC Director of Operations, stated that the agency had begun probing allegations of mismanagement and diversion COVID-19 funds and palliatives, including by some state governments in the country.
He revealed that there is a particular case of diversion of COVID-19 logistics and contingency emergency fund into a personal account.
The ICPC Director did, however, not mention the state government or individual involved.
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He said: “As much as prevention of corruption in the management of COVID-19 funds is important, investigations are ongoing regarding some cases of distribution of palliatives and the use of funds connected with the pandemic by some public institutions in the following areas, release and distribution of grains from the strategic food reserve.
“Others are instances of agencies involved in fraudulent purported procurement of COVID-19 palliatives, Personal Protective Equipment and community enlightenment activities; cases of state governments using the COVID-19 pandemic to financially exploit local governments.”
Lawal also said the anti-graft agency will also probe officials allegedly involved in fraudulent procurement of COVID-19 palliatives, Personal Protective Equipment and community enlightenment activities.
The ICPC had in April constituted a monitoring team to keep track of all transactions relating to the COVID-19 relief fund for the country.
The anti-graft agency had warned all federal and state government officials and agencies, as well as health workers to steer clear of all unethical and corrupt acts that could result in criminal investigation and consequences.
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