MINISTER of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole yesterday shocked members of the Senate Committee on Health when he informed the committee that the original budget of his ministry had been largely distorted.
He claimed that strange figures were smuggled into the budget.
The minister’s revelation might have reinforced the Senate’s claim that the 2016 budget had been tampered with.
The minister urged the committee to discard the budget proposal before it and await a new estimate to be re-submitted today. He assured members of the committee that the new proposal would reflect the programmes of the health sector for the year.
Adewole’s revelation forced Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Lanre Tejuosho, to convene a closed door session with the minister apparently to discuss the development.
The minister told the committee that there were some health issues on which conclusions had not been made by the ministry and yet allocations were made on them without the ministry’s knowledge.
Adewole insisted that the provisions of the budget before the National Assembly was in contrast with the priorities of the health sector as contained in the original budget it prepared and submitted to the budget office.
He noted that some of the votes earmarked by the ministry for some activities had been re-distributed while some important areas in the sector had been excluded.
“In the revised budget as re-submitted, N15.7 billion for capital allocation has been moved to other areas. Some allocations made are not in keeping with our priorities. There is nothing allocated to public health and family health. Over the last two years, nothing has been done on HIV…
“We have to look into the details of the budget and re-submit it to the committee. This was not what we submitted. We’ll submit another one. We don’t want anything foreign to creep into that budget. What we submitted is not there. We have not reached that stage and we find the money there.”
The committee chairman noted that given the submission of the minister, the budget before the committee was not the proposal of the Health Ministry.
He added that it would be out of place to work on a budget that had already been disowned by the minister.
He said: “Honourable minister, we need to have an executive session. You said about this budget that public health is not there. Obviously, the budget we are looking at now is not your own.”
Adewole responded: “Yes, it’s not. We’ll submit the revised document tomorrow (today). It will be an updated version of what you have.”
The minister also said State House Clinic to which N3.9 billion had been allocated in the budget at the expense of other hospitals put together which got far less allocations, is not under the supervision of the Ministry of Health.
He explained that the clinic is under the Presidency.
Adewole said the figure might not have been the original allocation to the clinic by State House, noting that the original allocation might have been inflated by the same forces, which, he said, had distorted his ministry’s original estimates.
Tejuosho noted that since the minister said that State House Clinic was not under the watch of the Health Ministry, it also implied that the Health Committee’s oversight function did not extend to the clinic.
He added that it is the responsibility of the Special Duties’ Committee to engage the State House on the budget for the clinic.
The minister allayed the fears of Nigerians about Zika virus that is ravaging some countries.
He noted that the virus had been in the country since 1954, but had been unable to harm citizens because Nigerians had developed strong resistance to it.
The minister said the virus should be ignored.