By Deborah Onyofufeke, Abuja
The federal government has said that the re-commencement of the Direct Gavi Programme funding is a proof of the unwavering commitment of the Federal Government to combat corruption and provide a stable framework for governance.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, said this in Abuja,at the occasion of re-commencement of direct GAVI programme funding in Nigeria, through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency,NPHCDA.
Mr Mustapha said the country has begun to harvest the benefits of its transparency and accountability policies.
He added that the re-commencement of direct GAVI programme funding in the country stands as proof of the accomplishments resulting from combined endeavours to establish accountability and transparency, thereby instilling trust in thesystems.
According to him, Measures such as the Treasury Single Account,TSA, Whistle-blower Policy, and Public Service Reforms seek to enhance financial management, plug revenue leakages, and promote good governance.
The SGF said the federal government was determined to build resilient and inclusive healthcare system in the country, appealing to Nigerians to remain steadfast in its determination to address the challenges that lie ahead by working collaboratively with it to build a resilient and inclusive healthcare system that meets their needs.
The SGF said:”The Federal Government of Nigeria recognises the importance of the Primary Health Care system towards the attainment of Universal Health Coverage. To this end, significant investments have been made to ensure they are equipped to provide continuous and high-quality healthcare service.
“A central pillar of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been the fight against corruption. This Government has shown a strong and unyielding resolve to tackling corruption in all sectors of society, implementing measures to recover stolen funds and assets, strengthen anti-corruption institutions, and enforce accountability among public officials.
“Specifically, this administration has embarked on governance reforms aimed at improving efficiency, transparency, and accountability in the public sector. Measures such as the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Whistle-blower Policy, and Public Service Reforms seek to enhance financial management, plug revenue leakages, and promote good governance”.
The Minister of Health,Dr Osagie Ehanire, also speaking at the occasion, recalled that GAVI had stopped funding programme in Nigeria through the NPHCDA following unsatisfactory findings from GAVI Programme audit in 2015.
He added that the re-commencement of the funding is a renewed confidence in the country’s financial management system by the GAVI team,especially on the part of the current NPHCDA management.
“The improved financial management system in NPHCDA aligns with the current governments zero tolerance for financial mismanagement practices and anti-corruption stance. As the supervising Minister therefore, I am especially proud of NPHCDA’s achievement”.
The minister explained that,”Direct programme funding will lead to major advantages of streamlining of approval process to save time, cost savings and system strengthening in financial management.”
” However, it is expected that GAVI and our other partners will continue to provide technical support to enable us to maximize the gains of these process transition”. Ehanire said.
The minister appreciated GAVI for the renewed confidence in the leadership of Nigeria’s health sector. He vowed that the Government will on its part continue to preserve the confidence through the accountability policies put in place to enable greater transparency and closer grant monitoring and management.
” The establishment of a Grant compliance coordinating office (GCCO) in NPHCDA is a step in the right direction. The GCCO will have the responsibility of ensuring judicious utilization of all funds from government and partners provided for programmes in NPHCDA,”he added.
In her keynote address at the occasion,the Minister of Finance,Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed,noted that healthcare is a fundamental human right, adding that it is responsibility of the Federal Government to ensure the well-being of the populace.
She added that in recognition of the importance of vaccines as a worthwhile intervention for prevention of diseases, the Government hasprioritized the funding of the procurement of vaccines and ancillary products through budgetary allocation and extra budgetary provision to address emergencies as required.
She explained that to derive the maximum benefit of these lifesaving interventions, all available resources must be judiciously utilized.
She however also recalled how Sadly, the GAVI 2014 audit revealed gross financial impropriety which resulted in the withdrawal of direct funds disbursement to NPHCDA for programme implementation.
Which resulted in the administration tirelessly embarking on governance reforms to instil public confidence in the systems.
She expressed excitement that It is heart-warming that the management of NPHCDA in alignment with the FGoN’s zero tolerance for financial mismanagement have been able to put measures in place to strengthen accountability and transparency in funds management.
She said the outcome of this measures is Gavi’s renewed confidence which has led to Gavi decision to re-commence direct program funding.
“It is particularly important to express the appreciation of the government and people of Nigeria for Gavi’s exceptional decision to extend their support that was initially planned to end in 2021 until 2028. This singular gesture would indeed translate to more lives being saved from vaccine-preventable diseases in our dear country.”
According to her,”As Nigeria has now entered the accelerated phase of Gavi transition towards full self-financing, the government recognises that to succeed in this transition, the immunization program will need to navigate several financial and programmatic risks to its sustainability, hence, the development the Nigeria Strategy on Immunization and Primary Health Care Systems Strengthening (NSIPSS). I want to affirm the government commitment to the NSIPSS Accountability Framework.”
“We believe that by following a comprehensive approach that includes robust coordination, commitment, realistic quantification, health system strengthening, sustainable financing, and clear accountability, we can, and we will navigate the challenges of transitioning and maintaining the progress achieved so far in healthcare delivery.
“As we continue our journey towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. We must work together to reach every child and every community, leaving no one behind.
“We will continue to invest in innovative and sustainable approaches to improve immunization coverage and strengthen our healthcare systems,”she further said.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA,Dr Faisal Shuaib, explained that at the inception of his administration, in 2017, four strategic objectives expected would set the agency firmly on the way to achievement of Universal Health Coverage,were initiated.
“The strategic objectives were changing the NPHCDA narrative about accountability and transparency in management of resources, achieving polio eradication; strengthening the routine immunization (RI) system; and revitalization of PHC in Nigeria. Today’s event is a celebration of the achievement of the first objective.
“It is worthy of being celebrated because when this administration came in, the agency was at its lowest ebb, as far as accountability and transparency in operations was concerned. We started out having to handle an issue involving misuse of donor funds, which led to the new administration having to compel staff to refund funds that were disbursed for state level activities, for which there were no acceptable evidence of those activities having been carried out.
“However, the spectre of misused Gavi funds still hung over the Agency, leading to Gavi’s stoppage of direct funds disbursement to NPHCDA for programme implementation. Funds had to be disbursed through development partners for activities approved for NPHCDA to implement.
“This hurt the system, and apart from the fact that part of the funds went for payment of Procurement Service Charges (PSC), there were avoidable delays in the approval processes of our development partners for utilization of the funds. Some of the approval bottlenecks were due to a misalignment of the Federal Government of Nigeria and implementing partners’ priorities, which did not bode well for the country’s goals and aspirations.
“Apart from ensuring that every naira of the misused funds were paid back, this administration set out to consciously improve the image of the agency through establishment of fit-for-purpose structures aimed at checkmating the then prevalent forces of impunity and total lack of accountability”He said.