By Christiana Ekpa
The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 pandemic on Monday admitted delay in the payment of the allowances of front line health workers involved in the management of the deadly disease.
The Chairman of the Taskforce who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha disclosed this when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Public Account currently investigating the management and disbursement of funds of COVID-19
This came just as the Committee summoned five Agencies under the Federal Ministry of Health to explain how they expended over ₦10.78bn received from the PTF for the management of the pandemic in the Country since March this year.
The Chairman of the Committee Hon Busayo Oluwole Oke who gave the ruling at the Monday session listed the affected Agencies as the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and the Federal Medical Centres in Ebutte Meta, Yenagoa, Makurdi and Keffi respectively as submitted before it by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Abdullahi Abdulazeez Mashi
The Permanent Secretary had told the committee that about N83.895 billion was initially budgeted as Covid-19 fund by all agencies involved in the fight against the pandemic and that the fund was supposed to be sourced from the 2020 budget, private donations and special interventions.
He said however that he received directives from the Ministry of Finance to do a viament of about N2.7 billion from the Ministry’s 2020 budget for the Covid-19 fight, but turned down the directive.
In his submission before the Committee on the delay in the payment of allowances to the Health Wokers, the SGF stated that this was said the delay was as a result of the discovery that the initial amount wouldl not be sustainable,
He further explained that negotiations with the Health workers on the new payment had been .concluded, while payment for April and May was currently being processed.
He however pointed out that the PTF was not involved in the management of funds donates by the private sector and did not receive any cash donation from foreign donors saying that the donations received were in form of equipment and logistics supports.
The SGF who was responding to a question on the truth behind the information that essential workers on the front line were not being paid their correct money said “yes, it is true.
According to him, “ 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. That will have to go through due process and I think that was part of what you passed that was captured in the budget
“The initial figures was quite astronomical and they had to go back to the medical workers such as the Nigeria Medical Association, JOHESU and the rest of them to negotiate and they have reached an agreement and now it is certain that will be paid the first two months of April and May and that is being processed right now
“They have not been paid so far because they were negotiating and sometimes, negotiations with these unions take quite some time.’.
Speaking 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 interface with them is that when they started, they had a steering committee and as the Chairman of the Taskforce , 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 DG, NCDC, we harmonised our needs and we sent it out to them
“They have also established structures within the CACOVID. They have a finance, strategic and procurement committees. They also decided that for the purpose of really monitoring these funds and for transparency and accountability.