The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), an agency of the federal government, spent N5,600 on one unit of hand sanitiser (500ml) for a procurement deal worth ₦5.6 million.
This is one of the many outrageous and inflated contracts as regards COVID-19 spending in Nigeria.
These expenses with other daily payments were fraught with incomplete descriptions and vague transactions, analysis by Dataphyte has shown.
The data mined from the Open Treasury Portal (OTP) from March 1 to June 27, 2020, shows 84 line items with COVID-19 expenses by the five federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAS).
The MDAs are the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), and the Federal Ministry of Health.
Austin Chimezie, the owner of one of the big pharmaceutical stores along Oshodi-Isolo expressway, exclaimed at the price of a 500ml hand sanitiser for N5,600.
According to Mr. Chimezie, ‘’even at peak period, the cost of a 500ml hand sanitiser is N3000. We sell the bulk of that particular hand sanitiser for N12,000 a carton, usually 12 pieces per carton.’’
Corroborating Mr Chimezie’s claim, a pharmacist at Rita’s Pharmacy & Superstore in Lekki, Lagos, Olusola Olarinto said no customer would buy a locally-made hand sanitiser for N5,600, especially when the bottle is 500ml.
“We have some expensive hand sanitiser around here for N5,000, but they are 1 litre and above.’’
According to the portal, the five federal parastatals spent ₦1.69 billion ($4.7 million at N360/US1) on COVID-19 in the last three months.
The process marred the essence of the government’s new treasury transparency initiative.
Also, half of the total expenditure went to individuals for various procurement and services. These actions by MDAs and the office of the Accountant-General negate President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption and transparency mantra.
The sanctioning is weak and bureaucratic in nature, the details of payments for COVID-19 related expenses by the MDAs on the Open Treasury Portal (OTP) have shown.
The OTP was launched by the FG to ensure open transparency in government spending. The portal mandates all MDAs to publish transactions above ₦5 million.
But since the launch in December 2019, MDAs and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) continue to frustrate the essence of the platform with nebulous transaction details and inadequate description of payment.
Dataphyte analysis of the payments showed that the NPHCDA incurred ₦1.36 billion out of the total figure. It represented 80 per cent of the total amount incurred by the five MDAs within the months under review.
The NCDC spent ₦42.16 million, NSCDC spent ₦170.7 million, Ministry of Health spent ₦86.63 million, while FRSC spent ₦32.26 million.
|No.||MDAs||Amount (N’ million)|
|1||National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA)||1.360.7|
|2||Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)||42.16|
|3||Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)||170.7|
|4||Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC)||32.26|
|5||Federal Ministry of Health||86.63|
Checks by Dataphyte showed that most of the transactions have no record, while the descriptions of others are vague. Other red flags in the payments include bloated contract sums, procurement, and services rendered by individuals and companies.
For instance, the NPHCDA spent ₦39.3 million for the supply of face masks (Supply & Delivery of Face Mask for LGA Training participants. Delivery at NSCS, Abuja). The line item did not state the number of face masks bought and the cost per mask. A simple calculation showed ₦39.33 million could have taken care of 78,666 people at ₦500 per face mask. It is not clear if this was the case.
Another controversial line item for the agency is the payment for the ‘monitoring and supervision of COVID-19 commodities’ across North-west and South-west at ₦33.23 million. The North-central and North-east zones gulped the same amount. These payments were made to individuals.
Several attempts by this reporter to get details of the individuals from NPHCDA were unsuccessful. The spokesperson of the agency directed the reporter to the procurement head.
“We are heading to the National Assembly to defend the mandate establishing the NPHCDA now. When oga (Executive Director) is done I will get in touch with you to give you an update on the question,” the procurement head, Soji Taiwo, said on the phone.
Later, Mr Taiwo declined to comment on the reporter’s enquiries, but suggested a “collaborative relationship.”
Further analysis by Dataphyte showed that the agency paid the sum of ₦807.5 million to various individuals for the procurement of COVID-19 materials, training of LG staff, among others. The figure represents 55 per cent of the total amount expended by the NPHCDA on COVID-19 between March and June 2020.
The NPHCDA is not alone. The health ministry also paid the sum of ₦15 million and ₦71 million respectively to private individuals without adequate description.
The first payment was for a Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) Air-ticket, local running, and airport taxi ‘’to embark on a full-scale simulation exercise on COVID-19 for staff at Port Health Services (PHS) in five states (Enugu, Ikeja, Rivers, Kano, and Abuja)’’.
The other payment was made to Bulama, Sadiq Abubakar for the “payment for transfer in respect of Coronavirus Emergency Response (Port Health Control).”
Other incomplete items were the payment of ₦35.3 million for the supply of face masks, ₦15 million for the supply of liquid soap at then NSCDC headquarters in Abuja.
Also, ₦26.26 million paid to a contractor for the supply of ‘antiseptic solution’ to the same headquarters.
Bisi Kazeem, the spokesperson of the FRSC, said all payments were done in line with the BPP (Bureau of Public Procurement) guidelines.
“We are thorough about procurement at FRSC, if company papers are not complete, we don’t do business with such a contractor.”
When this reporter asked about the procurement of hand sanitisers at inflated amounts, he sent pictures of the size and product for confirmation.
An image of the hand sanitiser procured by the FRSC at N5,600 per unit at 500ML.
The same product – Archy’s hand sanitiser disinfectant – costs N2,500 per unit on Jumia, according to checks by Dataphyte.
A screenshot of Jumia Nigeria page for same product
Meanwhile, the officials at the ministry of health declined to comment. A focal person at the procurement desk said he could not comment on the COVID-19 procurement details.
“I am unable to attend to this inquiry. As you are aware, as a civil servant, I cannot engage the press without authorisation from Minister of Health or Minister of State for Health, Federal Ministry of Health,” he said.
Olujimi Oyetomi, the director of public relations, Federal Ministry of Health, who facilitated the discussion, said the ‘’ministry can only attend to such inquiries if the matter is brought to the attention of the minister and minister of state for health.’’
Shola Odumosu, the deputy spokesperson of the NSCDC, asked the reporter to send a request by email. Since then, he has not replied to reminders sent to him.
How MDAs are using OTP to frustrate open governance
The Open Treasury Portal has not achieved the main aim of its establishment. More than six months after launching, MDAs have found a means to frustrate its usefulness.
They release bogus figures, incomplete item descriptions in a way to outsmart the open governance initiative. Also, it is challenging for stakeholders to check abuse of procurement, sharp practices, and corruption.
The OAGF is not helping Nigerians and the government at ensuring proper description for all payments in compliance with the transparency policy. Instead of rejecting items without adequate information, it seems the office publishes without sanctioning erring MDAs.
For instance, ₦346.2 million was paid by the NCDC without any description and it passed through the OAGF without any red flags. The same items placed on the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) of the BPP have descriptions.
Ifeoma Onyebuchi, the programme director, PPDC decried this act of oblivion. She queried that “given that MDAs can adhere strictly to the BPP guidelines on the submission of procurement items, why not on the open treasury portal?”
She called on the OAGF to promptly correct this problem to ensure public accountability and transparency for all Nigerians.
Line items for the NCDC without description
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