Persons living with HIV slam CISLAC over N8.5bn contract allegation

The Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria has berated the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre over a report that Nigeria loses N8.5 billion every time the National Agency for the Control of AIDS procures HIV/AIDS drugs through private contractors.

The National Coordinator of NEPWHAN, Abdulkadir Ibrahim, said this in a statement on Friday while berating CISLAC for what it described as a false report.

CISLAC Executive Director, Auwal Musa aka Rafsanjani, had called on the authorities to investigate faceless contractors and their relationship with the leadership of NEPWHAN that is secretly used to obstruct and frustrate NACA’s effort from purchasing drugs directly from manufacturers.

However, in a statement titled, ‘Disclaimer: Nigeria losing N8.5bn through third party procurement on HIV/AIDS – CISLAC’, NEPWHAN said unsubstantiated allegations were made about the procurement of antiretroviral drugs for the management of HIV infection.

It read in part, “We take exception to this false allegation and will like to set the facts straight. On August 27, 2020 NEPWHAN had officially written to the office of Director General of NACA to request an update on the progress being made with the N1.3bn allocated to it through the 2019 budget for the procurement of antiretroviral drugs for people living with HIV.

“The office of the Director General of NACA responded that the drugs will arrive in Nigeria at the end of October 2020. The procurement process, however, required that full payment be made before delivery of the drugs.

“At no point in the official communication with the office of the Director General of NACA did NEPWHAN raise concern about drug procurement procedures. We are interested in the timely delivery of antiretroviral drugs for Nigerians living with HIV to ensure uninterrupted supplies.”

The organisation noted that although the purchase of HIV drugs by NACA from the manufacturers was cheaper, it was affecting local jobs.

The group further stated that NACA’s attempt to cut costs did not follow due process as no approval was obtained from the Federal Executive Council or the Bureau of Public Procurement.

NEPWHAN admitted that it contacted the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health about the poor quality of care provided for its members in Abia and Taraba States, the only two states the country manages its HIV program in Nigeria.

It added, “The Global Fund will focus on commodity procurement and supplies including treatment in Ebonyi and Anambra States while The PEPFAR (a program run by the United States Government) will handle HIV treatment in 33 States.

“NEPWHAN recognises that this poor quality of care results in part from the failure of the program to be handled by the National AIDS and STIs Control Programme under the Federal Ministry of Health who are responsible for hospital administration and management.

“NACA manages the non-health-related HIV response. Their continued management of drug procurement and treatment management in a domain they have no operational jurisdiction over undermines their efficiency and effectiveness. NEPWHAN will not only hold the government accountable to its mandate, but also suggest how best to serve the needs of our community members. This is what we have done of which CISLAC sadly refers to as blackmail.”

However, the Director-General of NACA, Dr. Gambo Aliyu, told The PUNCH that the agency sought and obtained approval from the President before going ahead to make a direct purchase of drugs from the international market.

Aliyu said NACA did not obtain approval from the Bureau of Public Procurement and the Federal Executive Council because it was an emergency procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said due to scarcity of funds, NACA decided to directly purchase the drugs from the international market which upset middlemen and angered the NEPWHAN coordinator.

Aliyu said the ultimate aim of NACA under his leadership was to cut cost and ensure that drugs are available to as many people as possible and not the narrow interest of a few.

PUNCH

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