By Mumini AbdulKareem
Two leading Kwara State based Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Brain Builders International (BBI) and Elites Network for Sustainable Development (ENetSuD), last night tackled the Kwara State Government of the amount that has been spent on the management of Covid-19 in the state.
The coordinators of the groups, Olasupo Abideen and Dr Abdullateef Alagonsi who spoke in separate telephone conversation last night with this writer expressed reservations concerning the spending.
The State Government in a statement had said a total of N1,569,107,944.70 has so far been expended on the pandemic between April 1 and June 29.
“The breakdowns are running (cost) of the activities of the technical committee (N132,931,510); medical supplies and equipment (N713,480,100.90); palliatives (N525,277,030.00); COVID-related renovation works N149,928,753.80; and security, health workers’ allowances and logistics (N47,490,550.00).
“These expenses covered the purchase of military grade Toyota Land Cruiser Ambulances; automated ventilators and several other Intensive Care Unit (ICU) gadgets/equipment; production of hand sanitizers; and the cost of running the activities of the technical committee and its subcommittees.
“The expenses also included the cost of the palliatives that were distributed during the lockdown; renovation of the Sobi Specialist Hospital and the Hajj Camp; mass production of face masks, purchase of surgical masks, digital thermometers, N95 and respirator-sperien 5311, and other Personal Protective Equipment; medical supplies and consumables; security expenses; trainings; allowances for medical personnel and other supportive staff in charge of the pandemic; part-renovation of the Offa General Hospital as an isolation centre; and patients’ management, among others.
“It is important to add that the government has not spent a kobo from these donations as the funds have not been appropriated by the House of Assembly. However, materials including food stuffs donated have been distributed accordingly,” the statement added.
But according to the Executive Director of BBI, Olasupo Abideen, although managing Covid-19 is very expansive, the Kwara State Government has something to hide over the release.
“Managing Covid-19 is highly expensive. But there are some questions begging for answers after the release analysis of its spending.
“We need to know exactly how much is the Governor’s salary and the percentage of money gotten from BUA group, how much the forum of Permanent Secretaries and others donated and the teacher from ECWA. Then we also need to talk whether testing is free or not. Although the CPS has debunked is in a platform I belong to, unfortunately we cannot get any clarification in the report.
“Then beyond this, if the government is saying it spends some amount on palliatives, a transparent government with the help of a data analyst will only need to do a stratification of the number of food items bought. It doesn’t cause anything to the transparent and I am very sure the government has all the data which should be made available to the public.
“It will take them away from any suspicion. If the government is not transparent, there will always be continuous questioning. That is why at BBI, we have been advising the government, this is not a matter of attack but doing the right thing. Governance should be open if it is all about democracy, delivering the dividends and engaging people. They should always listen to the tax payers who are paying their salaries and provide clarification when need be.
“I don’t want to preempt that any embezzlement has taken place until we have line by line items of how the N1.5bn was spent just as they do for budget. Agreed the pandemic is very expensive to manage but when there is issue of trust, people starts to feel something is fishy. The government should be more open and following our numerous engagements with Kwarans, their major problem about this administration is that they are no more transparent. But is evident that the government is trying to hide something”, he submitted.
On his part, Dr Alagbonsi said “The figure needs to be verified by citizens before a credible comment can be made. We are going to request for further information on amounts published, especially concerning the palliatives. We need access to information on the bill of quality of food items bought with the money disclosed by the government on palliative. We also need the government to provide specific information on the types and quantity of items received as donations. All these will be reconciled with our own data on the palliative before we can arrive at any credible conclusion”, he noted.
Meanwhile, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has reportedly exited a popular online platform in the state, Fresh Insight (FI) over publication on the issue. His exit raised arguments last night with divided comments in support and against.
By Mumini AbdulKareem