Aso Clinic Scandal: House Of Reps Move To Unearth Inconsistencies , Looks Into Books .

Following the alarm raised by the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha Buhari over the deplorable state of State House Medical Centre (SHMC), and subsequent allegations of mismanagement, the House of Representatives commenced investigation into how budgetary allocations had been expended and the alleged deductions from salaries of staff members of the clinic.

The clinic established to primarily cater to the health needs of the President, Vice President and their families, an array of personalities around the corridors of power and serve as a training facility for medical officers and other health personnel.

We recall that Mrs. Buhari and her daughter Zahra, at different times, raised alarm over the deplorable state of the clinic and berated the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the clinic, Dr. Hussain Munir for running an ill-equipped health care facility. Speaking at the opening of a one-day stakeholders’ meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH and N) organized by her pet project, Future Assured in Abuja, the first lady had related an unpleasant experience when she visited the medical center for medical attention but was informed that the x-ray machine was not functioning and advised to fly to the UK.

Similarly, her daughter took to social media wherein she raised concerns over the poor state of the hospital despite the N3 billion budgetary allocation in the 2017 budget. Zahra also called out the Permanent Secretary in the State House, Jalal Arabi as to why drugs as paracetamol, syringes and gloves were unavailable in the clinic.

It would also be recalled that the House in adopting a motion on the deplorable state of the clinic on October 12, resolved to conduct a probe which will cover the utilization of the reported N10.98 billion budgeted for the facility and its operations since 2015. Mover of the motion, Hon. Henry Archibong noted that in 2015, the clinic received a budgetary allocation of N3.87billion; in 2016, it got N3.87 billion while in 2017, the sum of N3.3 billion was allocated to the medical center for “upgrading and provision of necessary drugs and equipment”.

The lawmaker however observed that in spite of the allocations, the clinic remains ill-equipped and unable to not render basic services adding that the management of the clinic was making illegal deductions from the salaries and allowances of its members of staff without explanations.

Well, last week Thursday, the Aliyu Magaji-led ad hoc committee of the House constituted to investigate the matter kicked off the hearing during which revelations contrary to earlier reports were made. However, the permanent secretary of the State House, Jalal Arabi confirmed the first lady’s assertion that the clinic was indeed in a deplorable state but attributed it to inadequate funding of the clinic over the years dismissing reports that N10.9 billion was allocated to the clinic between 2015 and 2017.

Arabi informed the panel that the total amount allocated to the clinic in the years under review was only N3.5 billion as against the figures publicly quoted and explained that cumulatively, N2.9bn was allocated for capital projects for the three years, out which total releases stood at N969.6m while total expenditure was N898.8m. he added that N465.9 was appropriated for overheads but a total N305.6m was so far released. Overhead expenditure according to him, stood at N152.6m and total monthly wage bill is N65.5m for 329 personnel.

He further explained that from 2016, the concept of zero based budgeting was introduced by the federal government, the emphasis has been on completion of ongoing projects that were inherited. Consequently, this has been the focus of the State House management, although sadly, inadequate releases of appropriated funds constituted a major challenge to the realization of set targets”

According to him, “the completion of the dental ward which was awarded in 2008 was stalled due to paucity budgeted funds to mobilize the specialist sub-contractors.

Denying claims that the management of the State House arbitrarily deducted the allowances of medical doctors working at the center, the permanent secretary disclosed that an audit of the center’s personnel uncovered 47 staff that were illegally collecting allowances that they were not entitled to collect. He alleged that some doctors sponsored by the State House to proceed on a two-year residency programmes, were paid call duty allowances even when they seized performing such role at the medical center.

Arabi also blamed some of the State House workers for enjoying free medical services, even when they failed to enlist on the clinic’s National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS. “The State House reached an agreement with HMOs with regard to the remittance of all NHIS payments in respect of State House staff whose NHIS point is the State House Medical Centre.

Also, a letter signed by Medical Director of the Clinic, Dr. H.Y Munir and addressed to the chief of staff to the president, dated 3rd October, 2017 and titled; “Re-State House Clinic Patients Groan Over Drug Scarcity’, revealed that the State House Medical Centre (SHMC) has been faced with several challenges involving drugs and consumables since Year 2016, and that this has been brought to the attention of State House Administration on numerous occasions.

According to Dr. Munir, “In the Year 2016, the approved budget for the hospital was N3, 890, 629, 221. 00. However, the only amount expended for the purchase of drugs for the year was N25, 983, 620. 00.

“In this current Year 2017, the approved budget for drugs and consumables was N290, 455, 312. 00. and the amount expended on drugs so far is N14, 786, 736, 00 and N15, 000, 000. 00. for consumables. The SHMC also received zero (#0) capital allocation for 2017.

The Medical Director noted that the expenditure on drugs and consumables for the Year 2017 was STOP GAP procurements which according to him, are done as a temporal measure pending the actual quarterly procurement as presented in the budget. He revealed that the quarterly drugs and consumables presented for first and second quarters of 2017 were not supplied.

Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Capital Territory Administration absolved themselves of any blame in the management of the clinic. the Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire, who stood in for the minister, Isaac Adewole told the committee that the center is not under the ministry’s supervision hence, he was unaware of how it was run.

However, the FCT Secretary, Health, Amanda Pam, said that the medical center was not under the purview of the FCTA. She further explained that Federal Capital Territory Administration) FCTA) has 16 registered hospitals, adding that the State House Clinic is not registered under the hospitals control by the administration.

Regardless of their position, the ad hoc committee ordered the Health and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) ministers to provide it with detail account of the State House.

While the House continues with the probe and Nigerians await its outcome, it is hoped that similar attention will be given to health facilities around the country as the current state of the Aso Rock Clinic is a reflection of the country’s health sector. Until priority is given to the healthcare delivery system, Nigerian elites will continue to enrich other developed countries through medical tourism while millions of ordinary Nigerians suffer and die from lack of access to quality and affordable health care

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