By Hassan Zaggi
The Federal Government of Nigeria has secured a grant of $890m from the Global Fund to tackle Tuberculosis (TB), HIV and Malaria.
This is for a period of 3 years (2021-2023)
Speaking with journalists at the venue of the GF Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) meeting with stakeholders in Abuja, Executive Secretary of CCM, Dr. Dozie Ezechukwu, disclosed that the 890 million dollars to be given to Nigeria indicated an increase of 30 per cent in the allocation previously given to the country by the GF.
This, according to him, is demonstration of confidence on Nigeria by the Global Fund.
It would be recalled that sometimes in 2015, the fight against HIV and Malaria was enmeshed with issues around lack of transparency and accountability which led the Global Fund to temporary suspend its activities in the area of the HIV and Malaria in Nigeria.
Nigeria was forced to refund some money to the GF.
The CCM Executive Secretary recalled that: “The issue of lack of transparency happened sometimes in 2015 and between then and now so many things had happened.
“The Federal Government set up a high level panel headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to investigate the issue at that time together with the then Minister of Health and other members of the panel.
“After their investigation, they handed over the matter to the EFCC. The EFCC then made arrest, investigate and prosecute. As at the last time I checked, the matter is still in court.
“That goes to show that the government of Nigeria is actually serious about transparency and accountability, not just for our own resources, but also for resources that we receive from the international donors.
“We must admit that the resources we received from other donors have been of immense help to Nigeria in the area of our public health programme.
“It has been a learning curve. Between then and now, we have also put measures in place to forestall the re-occurrence of such issues.”
Dr. Ezechukwu, however assured that the CCM has undergone some restructuring and reorganization to ensure that what happens in 2015 does not repeat itself.
This, he stressed, has, gained the confidence of stakeholders including both local and international partners.
According to him: “Going forward, I think, we are in a better place now. For example, the principal recipients then, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and National Malaria Elimination Programme for Malaria, they were suspended from the grant, but because of the measures that have been put in place, they have all been restored as Principal Recipients and going forward things are looking good.
“It may also interest you to know that , perhaps, as show of confidence, we are going for another round of application and they have asked us to go on what we call programme continuation showing that we are in a good platform to deliver services to achieve our target in line with our National Strategic Plans and Economic and Growth Plan of the Federal Government.
“Beyond that, they have also increased out allocation from what it was by over 30 per cent. Now we are talking about 890 million dollars for TB, HIV and Malaria for a period of the three years. That is significant contribution to our health sector.”
On what specifically the grant will be used for, he said: “Particularly for the Global Fund we are looking at Tuberculosis, HIV and Malaria as well as strengthening our health system to ensure that if you walk to a facility you will be rest assured that you are going to get quality services from the health care workers and also have access to drugs that have been prescribed to you by the doctor.”
Speaking on the various strategies put in place by the CCM to ensure that the issues around lack transparency and accountability do not rear their ugly heads, the Executive Secretary said: “From the Global Fund perspective, we have had an agreement to put in place what we call Grant Fiduciary Agent (GFA) in organisations that receive the funding so that they conduct what we call pre-expenditure audit.
“As a Chief Executive Officer, for instance, before I approve, the GFA would have reviewed, authorized and say okay fine this is clean and complied with all the requirement.
“Most times it is not only about the misappropriation or embezzlement of funds, it is actually about spending money on a budget line that is not meant for. In federal government parlance, it is call virement which is an offence, moving money from one budget line to another.
“Within the Global Fund context we referred it as ineligible expenditure and once it is considered ineligible, you are bound to refund the money. That is what exactly happened. So, we had to refund.”