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By NBF News
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APPARENTLY to clear Nigeria and its Global Funds' Principal Recipients (PRs) of alleged misappropriation of Global Fund AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) Phase 1 grant, the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) of Global Fund in Nigeria has inaugurated a task force to look into the allegation.

The task force, headed by the Minister of Health, who is also the current Chairman of the CCM, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu is to resolve the grey areas ahead of the proposal for the Phase 2 GFATM grant to the country.

The GF's Office of Inspector General (OIG) last year alleged misappropriation, inclusive of money laundering of GF's grant by some PRs in Nigeria. The OIG report blacklisted a notable PR and demanded reversal of the accreditation of the GFATM account from others.

According to sources, the development was worrisome to the Health Minister, who described it as 'an embarrassment to the government.' Hence, the inauguration of the task force headed by him.

Other members of the task force are the Accountant General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla; former chairman of the CCM, Jerome Mafeni; Director of Legal Matters, Ministry of Health; representative of the National Council for Women Society, Hajia Ramot Bala Usman and the CCM secretariat supporting the process.

Executive Secretary of the CCM, Dr. Fatai Wole Bello told The Guardian during a retreat and meeting of the CCM in Enugu that the allegations are of interest to all and sundry.

He said that the issue of some PRs not managing the grants well was pending before the appointment of the minister. He has since put up 'what I termed the Recovery Task Team (RTT),' Bello said.

'That shows a management that is serious and focused and will not want the country to be embarrassed.'

Explaining that the work of the task team is on going, Bello added: 'All the PRs that were indicted have been invited. Initially, they were six. Even before the OIG concluded its report on Nigeria, people were already insinuating things.

'By the time they finished, three were completely cleared and we have decided at this retreat to really commend those that did so well. Only three are left. Of those three, we are still looking at their books. Some of their receipts that were rejected by the office of GF, we have employed the office of the Accountant General of the Federation to do forensic auditing of them.'

Bello said further that most of the auditing that GF did dated back from 2003 to 2009.

'But so many of the staff have moved on; some of these organisations were gutted by fire, including NACA. So the documents were not there. Getting some of these documents was a challenge on the part of GF.

'When they came and some of these PRs could not provide the needed documents, they just classified them as unsupported and ineligible funds. That is the problem that we have.'

Bello added that the situation is not as bad as it was insinuated. He said that the aggregate of the unsupported and ineligible funds vis-à-vis the total disbursement to the country is only 1.55 per cent.

On why the CCM secretariat appeared to have been quiet on the matter, Bello said that the cardinal principle of CCM is transparency and does not accommodate any form of secrecy.

According to him, the retreat was the most successful of the earlier CCM meetings.

'It is the most productive of all the CCM meetings. It was devoid of rancour, politicking and insinuations. The presence of the minister was key to its success. A lot of decisions that people will endlessly argue, the minister made them happen quickly.

'For instance, most of the governance documents have been in drafts and some of them are as old as seven years and they were never finalised for circulations for the general public. But at this retreat, these documents were reviewed; financial management procurement papers were approved. It is huge to have achieved that.

'Something that has been militating against our grants has been the state of some of the infrastructures in the country. Healthy decisions on these have been made. We were also able to iron out some of the grey areas of the proposals that we are putting across to Phase 2.

'The Phase 2 proposal for the three diseases were also looked into and we were able to ensure that we give to GF a very robust proposal for Phase 2. Our moving from phase 1 to 2 is not automatic. GF grant is performance-based. We are able to put our documents together and able to identify the grey areas and the way forward,' he said.

CCM Nigeria was launched on the March 5, 2002. It has 30 members representing various organisations of the GF constituencies who are elected/selected. Since the launch of the Global Fund to date, CCM-Nigeria has coordinated and presented country proposals, which have successfully accessed $494,171,787 about (N56.8 billion).

The purpose of the CCM Nigeria is to make contributions that enhance the Global Funded-programmes' performance, while providing the link between Global Fund operations, CCM Nigeria member constituencies, and Nigerian stakeholders.