By Patrick Ekpoh
The Forum of Civil Societies Organisation in Akwa Ibom State has asked the state government to give account of the N3billion it has spent on COVID-19.
The state Governor Udom Emmanuel had in a live radio and television broadcast on Sunday claimed that the state had spent N3bn in the fight against the pandemic.
But speaking in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday, the Chairman of the Forum of Civil Societies Organisation in the state, Mr Harry Udoh questioned how the amount was spent when only 1,103 persons have been tested for the disease in the state.
He said proper accountability of the fund was necessary for third party accountability and Transparency.
According to him, it was necessary for the people to know whether the amount was part of the donations it received from corporate organisations and individuals in the fight against the pandemic.
Udoh explained that since the 2020 budget did not capture the COVID-19 expenses, and also had to be slashed because of the economic down-turn owing to the pandemic, a clear understanding of where the N3 billion was sourced from is important.
“You know from the onset we have been asking for transparency in the COVID-19 funds implementation within the State. First of all, the government has come out to mention that sum, which is commendable because that has been one of our advocacies, but the point is that we need to know exactly where the N3 billion is channeled to.
“Giving us figures like that doesn’t help the case. While we commend him for telling us how much has been spent, we need to have a breakdown of the expenditure so as to be able to provide third party accountability.
“For CSOs in the State, we need to exactly know the things that gulped the N3 billion. Was it on the building of treatment centre at Uruan. Did they buy drugs with that money? Was it on laboratory test? We are aware that testing costs between N30,000 to N40,000 as we learnt in other States. If you are spending public funds, you should be able to make the account public.
“It is after the breakdown that we will be able to say, you couldn’t have spent this on that etc. Until that is done we won’t be able to say much. So that we know what the recurrent expenditure is; don’t forget that the same day he made that statement; he announced the increment of health workers salaries and allowances. So we want to know if it is part of the N3 billion.
“You know this is extraneous expenditure because it wasn’t something that was envisaged when the 2020 budget was put together, no one envisaged COVID-19.
“To say you spent N3 billion, it makes it difficult to speak to it. Does that N3 billion include the donations that came which were published in Punch newspapers the other day? Without knowing exactly the details, it makes commentary on budget and expenditure quite difficult, Udoh said.