How N480M Was Allegedly Misappropriated In Abia State Ministry Of Health – Dr. Ukauwa Alleges
How N480M Was Allegedly Misappropriated In Abia State Ministry Of Health – Dr. Ukauwa Alleges
As the probe into the activities of Ministries in Abia State is on going, ALL FACTS NEWSPAPER which is investigating some allegations of financial misappropriations that took place in some programs and projects under the Ministry of Health in Abia State within 2015-2023, received a letter of clarification wherein allegations of financial mismanagement were posited.
In this letter of clarification signed by Dr. Ukauwa Charles, the pioneer Abia State Program Manager (PM) Saving One Million Lives (SOML) program from June 2016 to September 2017, explained in details how the first tranche of N480m released by the Federal Ministry of Health in 2016 was allegedly misappropriated.
Dr. Ukauwa in this rewrite below, revealed how he was forced out as the Project Manager of the program in September 2017 because he insisted on financial prudence and how the money was then allegedly wasted by the people in charge after his removal.
While interacting with ALL FACTS NEWSPAPER, Dr. Ukauwa posited that he had to open up because some people were already spreading the wrong narrative of what transpired during that time and it will be bad for him to just keep quiet while they keep painting him black.
He challenged anyone who will disprove him to come with facts and figures.
READ FULL CLARAFICATION LETTER BELOW:
SAVING ONE MILLION LIVES (SOML) PROGRAM IN ABIA STATE- REPORT OF MY STEWARDSHIP.
I write to clarify issues concerning my stewardship as Abia State Program Manager (PM) Saving One Million Lives (SOML) program June 2016 to September 2017. SOML was a 3-4 year Performance based Financing (PBF) program from the FMoH and supported by World Bank, and unlike other programs by the WB, SOML was funded by grants to the states but loan to FG. At the state and FMoH it was a PForR (Program for Results), meaning there were rewards attached to achieving specific results.
I am Dr. Ukauwa Charles, a 1995 MBBS graduate of the University of Ibadan, and later MPH from Sokoto, a development Consultant and Public Health practitioner, who joined Abia State government in 2015 on invitation of Dr. Okechukwu Ogah, the Hon. Commissioner of Health at the time; Pioneer Program Manager and designer of the Abia State Saving One Million Lives Program and helped attract the initial $1.5m. I was also critical in making Abia State one of First 3 states to access the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) which has so far contributed over #3billion to primary health care and health insurance in the state. I am currently the Focal Person, Abia Health Research and Resource Mobilization Committee (AHRMC) & Incident Manager for Cholera outbreak response, Case management Pillar lead for the Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC), which spear heads the response to Covid 19, Lassa fever and other major infectious diseases outbreaks in the state.
I steered the ship of SOML between June 2015 and September 2017 when I was unfairly removed because I insisted on doing the right thing and ensuring that the fund was used for the program and not frittered away. I worked with a team from the Ministry of Health and an accountant posted from Ministry of Finance, the program Implementation Unit (PIU) included Dr. Ikechi Ogbonnaya, Anthony Nwogwugwu, Caroline Ule, Patrick Amah, Chima Onyeaso and Ukaegbu Ugboaku; while the project also had 6 signatories to the account in CBN, namely Mr. Uchechukwu Agomoh (Director PRS), Mrs. Cordelia Nwokoro (DF), Mr. Ndukwe Ota (Cashier), Mrs. Ugboaku Ukaegbu (Accountant) & Mrs. Stella Ojukwu.
ACHIEVEMENTS DURING SOML
- One of the first 5 states to get its work-plan approved by national SOML office & World Bank.
- One of the very few states without an objection or correction of its initial work-plan sent to the national Office & World Bank.
- Secured the initial grant of $1.5m by June 2017.
- Scored 65% in 2017 first quarter SOML performance, which was the best among states which were yet to assess the fund, when other states in same category scored between 1 and 10%.
- Led the Abia State SOML to score 92% in the second assessment of our activities and systems by the SOML National office and partners.
- National SOML Office adjudged me one of the best PMs in Nigeria.
- Successfully conducted a 3 day residential QISS (Quality Improvement & Supportive Supervision) training of 165 health workers at Villa Roy hotel, to equip health workers for supportive supervision roles during the program.
- Supported the state to conduct the first 100% Abia State funded MNCH (Maternal and Newborn Child Health) week activity across the 17 LGAs in the state.
- Deployed trained health workers to the primary health facilities for supportive supervision.
- Supported the activities towards the development of the Abia state 2nd Strategic health Development plan (ABSHDP) 2017-2022. The current Commissioner of health was a consultant for the activity.
I was forcefully removed in September 2017, soon after Commissioners were dropped and I have attached a copy of the letter to that effect. The sum received in Naira was about 480m naira, out of which my office spent about 74m, even though we had an approval to spend much more within the time, but bureaucratic bottlenecks stalled activities including a letter (copy attached) from the Permanent secretary in July asking us to suspend spending to carry out program activities.
Interesting to note is that few weeks after I was removed, almost 300m was spent on all manner of procurements, which were not in line with the initially approved work-plan, and the new team (most of my team members were either transferred or replaced by the PS). For example, I only had a budget for a Ford Ranger and cost to fix various project vehicles in the Ministry of Health, its departments and the schools of nursing, in order to have a large pool of vehicles; whereas the new team bought 2 Hilux jeeps and 2 buses. They had no use of the vehicles such that a Special Adviser to the governor on health was given one of the Hilux jeeps and another bus was elsewhere for most of the program life. I was also informed that the cost of the 4 vehicles were massively inflated in order to maximize gains, many other items were procured against the planned use of most of the funds to provide services to women and children in the communities.
The officers left to administer the program upon my exit include Mr. Agomoh Nkwachukwu PS, Ikechi Ogbonnaya M and E officer, Mr. Anyantonwu Accountant, Ikechukwu Nwabuko DF, Dr. Okorie Onuka PM, Gladys Ogbonna PO, Mrs. Ngozi Chiori Director PRS to mention a few.
By the time Abia state was assessed for the next grant, based on results achieved (after my removal), our dear state did poorly and for the next two years hardly got significant support, while some other states smiled home with between 3-10 billion naira yearly.
2 years after my exit the former governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu approached the WB to ascertain the reason for Abia’s poor rewards over the years and the findings led him to set up a panel of inquiry in 2019 to investigate the roles of various players during the program, I was absolved of any wrong doing, while some persons were transferred and some queried.
- I didn’t enrich myself with SOML funds; I led sacrificially and by example and several testimonies attest to that. I was just on an impress of 150,000 naira monthly as PM and I didn’t receive any other allowances since I was on impress, except for travels outside the state.
- I didn’t approve or spend beyond the activities I listed above. The massive spending spree including purchase of 4 vehicles at 100m naira same wee and spending of 300m or so within a month occurred after I had left as PM.
- I was never indicted by the probe panel on SOML, but instead was vindicated.
- SOML national office regretted my removal from the project and tried to broker peace abinitio but all to no avail from the SMoH leadership at the time.
- Things turned sour after commissioners were dropped.
- The former governor approved for Sir Onyi Wamah to stand in for the PS to AGF office Abuja for CBN account etc when it was clear the former PS wasn’t cooperating with steps to get the initial fund, following approval from the WB. The process to open a CBN account was massively frustrated.
- Abia state lost the opportunity to assess close to 20b naira within the period of the project.
- Abia state lost the very low hanging fruit opportunity of using Made in Aba strategy (As I proposed to the former governor, which he agreed but I was removed) to get another $2m at least from the available and eventually unutilized $20m innovation fund under the program. The proposal could still be discussed but alternative funding this time. The innovation project I suggested could have availed Abia state through Aba additionally over $10m income yearly.
- Same 2017 I inspired Abia state to host the first South Eastern National Council for Health conference, which I went further to reach the current Commissioner for Health Dr. Ngozi Okoronkwo to lobby for a project from the visiting Minister for health, and she liaised with Dr. Francis Ugwujie of the World bank to guide Abia state in vying for and eventually become 1 of 3 states to be funded by the WB under the Basic Healthcare Provision fund BHCPF. This fund has gone a long way to provide services in 292 ward health centers in Abia state carry out free maternal and under 5 health services at our PHCs and also fund the Abia state Health Insurance agency since 2019.
- Same 2017, I reached out to TCI (The Challenge Initiative- A program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation) headed by a bosom friend, to start a process of enrolling Abia state. I went on to work with the former Family planning Coordinator for Abia State, Mrs. Confidence Ogboso to secure a grant for Abia state which led to support that lasted 2 years at least.
OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS DESPITE NO FINANCIAL SUPPORT SINCE 2017.
- Key player in attracting the Basic Health Care Provision Fund BHCPF: Sequel to the approval by the Minister of Health for Aba state to host the 2017 National Council of Health event in Umuahia, I was made part of the NCH Steering Committee, with a view to ensuring that the event and its planning were successful and that needed resources and structures were in place and on time. I had to give myself an additional assignment of seeking partnerships and programs we could demand and attract, using the advantage of hosting the nation to the event. I reached out to an Abian, a consultant with the National Primary Health care Development Agency, Abuja, and sought for her help to ensure the plan succeeded. She went on to contact Dr. Francis Ugwujie of the FMoH, and I convinced them to come for the NCH event and help Abia; I also learnt from them that Abia was qualified for the BHCPF and that only two states would be selected then, one in the north and another south. I spent my funds to ensure their initial stay was conducive and we discussed modalities for attracting the fund.
The outcome of our meeting was a message for the Governor and Hon. Commissioner to include in their speeches, the demand for the fund by the state. In order to make that possible, I reached out to the Governor’s speech write, Mr. Sam Hart and sent him the message, which he included in His Excellency, the Governor’s speech as was read at the event. I worked with the Abuja team and the Hon. Commissioner for Health to have an event for partners and also a breakfast meeting hosted by the Governor for the Minster and partners, where the Basic HealthCare Provision Fund (BHCPF) matter was taken to a deeper level.
- Key Player in attracting The Challenge Initiative TCI program: The Challenge Initiative is a Bill and Melinda Gates funded Family Planning program through NURHI to some states of Nigeria.
- Helped Abia with the 2018 Ease of Doing Business Right of reply: I asked Dr. Mrs. Lilian Ezenwa who is also a World Bank Consultant, to help Abia state with the Right of reply documents/reports this year after the protest by Abia state (at the March 2018 Abia Investment Summit at Aba) about the 2014 ranking, in which Abia came 34th. She was engaged as the state consultant by Chinenye Nwogu and her report helped Abia to be among the 5 states with the best DTF (Distance To Frontier) scores.
- Helped save Abia state from UNICEF sanctions and got support for Commodities donation (Through Vitamin Angels’ rep in Abia, Public Enlightenment Projects -PEP) of over N20m to the MNCH (Maternal and Newborn Child Health) week events between 2016 and 2019.
- Co-Inspired the Donor Sustainability bill to set aside a percentage of the budget for Counter-part fund.
- Attracted Naveen Technologies to support the state through investing heavily in the secondary health system and also the primary health care system where needed. Currently the organization has partnered with Abia state government and the Diaspora Commission to equip the Abia State Children Specialist Hospital, located at Bende road, opposite CPS, Umuahia.
- Supported the Covid 19 response, from Contact tracing to Case management. Attracted 100 lines and phones for communication of field staff (from Dial a Doc), and proposed to Health Foundation USA which eventually donated items worth over N1.5m to Amachara Isolation Center.
- Supported clinical management of Covid 19 cases through the period of the pandemic and thus helped to save many lives. I am still coordinating activities of the Amachara Covid 19 Isolation centre.
- Co-attracted (With Lilian Ezenwa) a 35KVA solar system to Mbom health center in January 2022 and working with partners for the upgrade of the center to a Comprehensive Health Centre, any time soon.
- Key to attracting a 50KW Solar system to Abia State Specialist Hospital Amachara and a 80 KVA diesel powered generator ready for commissioning. The construction of the Solar car park was concluded in December 2022, is currently powering the Covid 19 Isolation center and some buildings at the Specialist hospital, while awaiting commission currently. We should be actively pursuing the projects that can be attracted through this facility.
Dr. Ukauwa Charles