Between Oyo state gov’t and UCH: Who is lying over Covid-19 support fund?

Accusations and counter-accusations between Oyo state government and the management of UCH over some amount of money meant for Covid-19 relief fund is tearing both institutions apart. BAYO AGBOOLA writes that the verbal war is now like a naked dance on the street.
It is said that one good turn  deserves another, but in the present scenario in Oyo state, reverse seems to be the case going by controversy surrounding the N118million support to the University College Hospital (UCH) by the state government to fight Coronavirus pandemic in the state.

The disclosure that generated argument

The state government through the commissioner for finance, Mr Akinola Ojo while briefing journalists in Ibadan on June 23 said the state government has committed over N2.7billion to the ongoing fight against spread of Coronavirus in and across the state including a sum of N118 million to UCH as support grant.The commissioner during the briefing gave a breakdown of the over N2.7billion expenses as N370 million for the setting up the Infectious Disease Centre, Olodo, Ibadan; N453 million on security of the state borders; N118 million to provide support for the University College Hospital (UCH) for partnership on testing; N900 million on provision of palliatives and seedling to residents and farmers; N321 million on procurement of ambulances for the Ministry of Health while the state has also expended N614 million so far on the procurement of reagents, body kits, drugs among other.

UCH debunked claims

Hours after the press briefing, the management of UCH came up to vehemently counter the commissioner’s claim of the N118million support, denying ever receiving any monetary donation from the state government as claimed by the commissioner.
UCH in a statement signed by the hospital’s public relations officer, Mr Toye Akinrinlola, on behalf of the chief medical director, Prof Toye Otegbayo, emphasised that the denial became necessary as “all efforts at getting the needed clarification on the said N118million to UCH were  unsuccessful, saying there seems  to be a misunderstanding in the difference between the College of Medicine of the University of Ibadan and the University College Hospital Ibadan.”Our attention has been drawn to the content of a press release from Oyo state Government that the sum of N118 million was given to the hospital to fight against COVID 19 pandemic. The press release quoted the state commissioner for Finance, Mr Akinola Ojo, as saying the said amount was released to UCH. We contacted some officials of the state government for  clarification on this, but it seems there is a misunderstanding in the difference between the College of Medicine of the University of Ibadan and the University College Hospital Ibadan. It therefore behoves on the management of UCH to put the record straight.
 “We hereby state emphatically that the University College Hospital, Ibadan did not and has not received any monetary donation from Oyo state government. The chief medical director of UCH is a member of the Oyo State COVID-19 task force. He should know if any money was given to UCH outside the 250 pieces of PPE given to the hospital. All other services rendered by the Oyo state government to UCH have been strictly humanitarian and no financial benefits have accrued to the hospital. UCH has been able to cope with the rigours of pandemic through donations from NCDC, some corporate bodies, well meaning Nigerians, Alumni associations of the hospital, staff and students of the hospital. I therefore wish to say once again that UCH is not in receipt of any N118m as claimed by the state government.” 

Govt provides further evidence

Apparently irked by this denial, the state government released details of the N118million support with a vow  that it is standing by its position that it has supported UCH to the tune of N118 million in the fight against COVID-19. It said,  “Records made available by Oyo state commissioner for finance, Mr Akinola Ojo, confirmed that the state government has provided support to UCH and the Department of Virology located inside the College to the tune of the said sum.According to a statement by the chief press secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, the detailed breakdown of the expenditure, showed that “N118 million was expended in meeting the varied needs of the Department of Virology, College of Medicine and the University College Hospital. Attempts by the management of UCH to disown the Department of Virology which serves as the teaching and research department in the College of Medicine as well as provides clinical services to UCH is self-serving, artificial and contemptuous.“The state government is of the view that attempts to create thin lines between the Department of Virology, College of Medicine which provides clinical services to UCH and operates from the same premises amount to being clever by half because in practical terms, the divorce cannot just hold. Staff of the department hold identity cards of the UCH and that of the University of Ibadan, even as the department remains the only one that undertakes virology-related assignments for UCH.” 
The statement quoted the finance commissioner as saying that in the height of the  pandemic, the state has provided medical supplies to  UCH including 500 each of googles, protective gowns and face shields; 250 each of full protective, head covers & shoe covers; 200 hand gloves amounting to N2 million. Providing a revolving fund to the tune of N5 million for treatment of residents of the state who tested positive. “The amount is being topped each time the hospital spends up to N4million on the patients. Based on a shopping list specifically prepared and presented to the state government by the chief medical director, the state government has procured medical supplies to the tune of N25 million for delivery to the hospital and that the supplier is just about to deliver the said items is an evidence of the protocols related to movement schedules of all items within the environment of a global pandemic.” The government maintained that some of the supports provided to the virology department also includes handling the clinical services of UCH which includes purchase of PPEs, SARSCoV-2 testing kits, extraction kits for Covid-19, wet lease of the testing machine for Covid-19, medical supplies and consumables as well as payment of allowances for staff of virology department.

Further denial by UCH

Also, the College of Medicine, in a special release signed by  deputy registrar and secretary the college, Dr Ikeoluwapo Moody, denied collecting any monetary support from the state government as claimed for COVID 19 support.”The College of Medicine management wishes to state emphatically and categorically that it did not receive the sum of N 118 million from the Oyo state government for COVID 19 tests. To set the record straight, Oyo state government initially gave the College of Medicine N5 million to run the Biorepository and Clinical Virology set up for the purpose of testing COVID 19 patients. However, when the accreditation by NCDC was not forthcoming, the N5million was returned to the state government to help in fighting the pandemic in the state.”

UCH virology dept affirms gov’t support

On its part however, the Department of Virology, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan affirmed the support of the state government to the COVID-19 laboratory in the department, adding that to date, the virology department has been supported by the state to the tune of N86.9 million.
In a letter affirming the support signed by Professor of Virology, Prof. David O. Olaleye, it affirmed the receipt of various levels of support to the tune of $200,000 (N86.9m) and affirmed that the department was appreciative of the support of Oyo state government in the COVID-19 containment efforts.
The  letter dated 25 June, 2020 reads: “I write to affirm the support of Oyo state government to the COVID-19 Laboratory in the Department of Virology, College of Medicine, UCH, Ibadan for the first six months of the emergency response to the problem.
“The approved amount totalling N86.9m (i.e $200,000) to date channelled through the Ministry of Health is to cover funding gaps to purchase an auto-extractor, computer for data entry, supplemental real-time PCR testing reagents, consumables, payment of Adhoc staff and allowance for some other staff, diesel, freezers for storage of specimens and courier shipment of some reagents from Europe.”
Going by the hide and seek game over the N118million controversy for COVID-19 support between Oyo state government and UCH , analysts in the state are of the view that there is a need for the government on its side to come out clear and douse the on going tension arising from the N118 largesse before it would be too late and turn to a major political issue.

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