*NACA: It’s mere audit query, not an accusation
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government has rejected the alleged misappropriation of money obtained as grants from the United States-backed Global Fund to support HIV-AIDS related health interventions in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria.
An audit report by the Global Fund had revealed $19.6 million worth of procurements funded from the COVID-19 Grants provided by the Fund to the federal government were awarded to contractors with unregistered businesses and without financial statements.
The periodic audit report published by the Office of Inspector General of the Global Fund, had noted the, “non-adherence with eligibility requirements for 67 per cent (six out of nine) of sampled procurements totalling $7.5 million, where vendors were awarded contracts without providing bank/performance guarantees, despite this being a pre-condition for contract awards.”
According to the report, “A joint venture was awarded two contracts worth $3.5 million without being legally registered, and without providing the bank/performance guarantee.
“In addition, eight of nine sampled vendors were awarded contracts amounting to $8.6 million despite not providing certified financial statements.”
Global Fund audit report further faulted the procurement evaluation process by the National Agency for Control of AIDS (NACA) which is the principal partner and major recipient of the Funds grants in Nigeria.
Currently, the total grant to Nigeria between 2021-2023 amounts to $900 million with proposal for additional funds.
However, speaking in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, the Director General of NACA, Dr. Gambo Aliyu denied report that the country had been indicted for mismanaging the grants provided by the Global Fund to address COVID-19-induced challenges as it affects people living with HIV-AIDS.
He said the Global Fund’s report was a mere routine audit report, in which about 27 questions were raised and out these, NACA disagreed with four.
Aliyu said: “The report in question was a routine audit report. In that report 27 questions were raised. We agreed with Global Fund on 23 that is the office of the Inspector General. We disagree on four and we still stand our ground. They have their view of the way we should do certain things and we also have the way we do things in government.
“It is not abnormal when there are queries or audits, to get disagreements. In fact, if you don’t get disagreements, an audit query which is 100 percent agreed may even be queried itself because there must be areas where the auditors or the partners involved responding to it disagree, it is natural so we have had that area of disagreement,” he said.
Regarding the faulting of the procurement process for the award of contracts amounting to $19.6 million, Aliyu said that every procurement was carried out under the strict supervision of the Global Fund. and that an audit firm within the agency endorsed every stage of the procurement process.
“NACA handles global fund money on COVID 19 and we did all the procurements under the supervision of Global Fund. There is a cooperative that supervise it in Geneva. There is an audit firm that is embedded in NACA that approves every step of the procurement. All we did, we did together with Global Fund, there was no fraud, there were no collision and no one has accused us that there was no value for money for the work that we have done,” he said.
Aliyu who was angry about the report of indictment of the organisation by the Global Fund said there was nowhere in the audit report where Nigeria was singled out for indictment.
“There was nowhere in that audit report that the government of Nigeria was indicted or NACA was indicted, Lagos state government was indicted or global fund accusing the government of Nigeria or the Lagos state government of misappropriation, we haven’t seen.
“However, this individual just chose to write without having the courtesy to call us and give us that benefit of doubt. I think your profession requires a balance,” he said.
The NACA DG however acknowledged that Global Fund has the largest investment in Nigeria, adding that 30 per cent of its grants to Nigeria were being disbursed by the federal government through NACA.
He added that there are safeguard policy that requires Nigeria to work hand in hand with Global Fund in virtually everything Nigeria does with the grants.
When asked if NACA approved procurement evaluation for unregistered firms within the period covered by the audit report, Aliyu said nothing like that happened.
“It didn’t happen at all. How can we award contracts to companies that are not registered? By the time we finish evaluation, we do what is called due diligence. During this due diligence we look at the record of each company with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
“Not only that the company is registered, we also make sure that there are no two companies that share directors. If we have a bid and two or three companies bided and they share same directors then we know they are coming from the same source, they automatically disqualified.
“Yes we do business with Global Fund and the fund has the largest investment in Nigeria. Out of the investment that Global Fund has only about 30 percent of the investment is with government, the remaining 70 percent is with the private sector. Also people should know that Nigeria is under what we call additional safeguard policy.
“Additional safeguard policy requires Nigeria to work hand in hand with Global Fund in virtually everything Nigeria does. NACA in particular works with Global Fund in every procurement activity.
“There is no procurement that NACA does that Global Fund isn’t aware of, that Global Fund didn’t review and that Global Fund didn’t approve, ” he said.