AUDIT by Global Fund has revealed that $19.6 million worth of COVID-19 procurement grants awarded to Nigeria was misappropriated through shady contract awards.
The audit published on the website of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, found that six out of nine procurement contracts issued to contractors failed to meet the eligibility requirements.
The Global Fund disbursed a total of $294 million in 2020 and 2021 to Nigeria to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Global Fund’s sanctions panel faulted the procurement evaluation process by the Lagos State Ministry of Health and the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), one of its principal partners in Nigeria.
The audit stated that contractors failed to provide bank statements for $7.5 million worth of contracts, which account for 67 per cent awarded, despite it being a condition for contract awards.
Citing an incident, Global Fund revealed that two unregistered firms received contracts worth $3.5 million without bank guarantees.
Also, 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,” the audit report said.
The audit also found acute shortages of key drugs and suspicious discrepancies between inventory figures and actual stocks.
Eight of every nine contractors investigated in the audit received $8.6 million without having certified financial statements.
“The absence of key tender documents to assess vendor performance poses risks of suppliers not being able to execute contracts or deliver on time,” the audit report added
The audit also found that NACA’s evaluation process lacks technical and financial scoring criteria to assess the best-suited bidder beyond the set eligibility criteria.
“The main root cause is NACA’s insufficient capacity to manage the COVID-19 fund in addition to its other responsibilities.
“Grants managed by NACA have increased significantly, from $6 million to $320 million (and from one to three grants), without any accompanying increase in resources,” the audit stated.
The audit further revealed that Nigeria has spent 50 per cent of the $11.7 million approved to grant flexibilities funds and 57 per of the $59.7 million COVID-19 funds received in 2020.
Global Fund is a partnership designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as epidemics.
It mobilises and invests more than $4 billion a year to support programmes run by local experts in more than 100 countries.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.