The Kogi State Government said it acquired a controversial ‘self-assessment COVID-19 software’ at a total cost of only N890, 000.

However, the state government said it spent N90.7 million “to acquire computer software for COVID-19 response”.

The state’s Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, stated this in a statement he issued in reaction to a report by Premium Times exposing a bloated expenditure by the state government on a COVID-19 software.

While Mr Fanwo claimed the N890,000 it spent covered the self-assessment app and the upgrade of the health ministry’s website, he failed to explain how it spent the remaining N89.8 million.

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the state last year spent over N90 million on software that the developers now offer for only N300,000.

The financial records seen by PREMIUM TIMES and which contained the expenditure were certified by the Accountant-General of the state, Momoh Jibrin, and the Commissioner for Finance, Asiru Idris.

In the breakdown, the government initially budgeted N150 million for the computer software project but stated that it ended up spending N90.7 million, “thus saving N59.2 million”.

The software, approved by COVID-sceptic Governor Yahaya Bello, was for tracking coronavirus cases in the state. However, the software is no longer functioning as the developers said they had a contract to host it for only one year.

The state government said the controversial software, which comes in a mobile application and website, was one of its measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Kogi.

The software uses the checklist of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for suspected and high-risk cases to evaluate users.

But checks by our reporter showed that the same software now costs only N300,000 from the same company that developed it for the state government.

An official of the state had admitted the government actually spent less than a million naira on the project and could not defend the N90.7 million announced as expenditure; an indication the declared price was excessively inflated.

PREMIUM TIMES’ report had generated reactions from transparency and accountability advocates who called on President Muhammadu Buhari to probe Mr Bello and the state’s COVID-19 related expenses.

Denial

In his statement of Monday, Mr Fanwo alleged that PREMIUM TIMES’ report was misleading but he could not also account for the entire sum spent.

“The report in PREMIUM TIMES of March 26, 2021 which was titled: ‘INVESTIGATION: Kogi govt spent N90 million on a N300,000 software’, which falsely claimed that the Government of Kogi State spent N90 million to procure a software for Covid-19 self assessment, is not only misleading, but a malicious attempt at painting the state as a corrupt one.

“We initially wanted to ignore the lies in the report, knowing how much the state government has been attacked for not subscribing to the commercial aspects of Covid-19. But on a second thought, we have decided to put Premium Times under the lense of truth, logic and commonsense.

“As a Government, we have no record that 90 million naira was expended to procure the Covid-19 self assessment software.”

He said the state spent “90.7 million naira for the procurement of computer software for the health sector in the State which may include but not limited to the self-assessment app.

“What was actually spent on the software referred to in the publication as well as the upgrading of the Ministry of Health website was N890, 000.00 (eight hundred and thousand naira only).

“How N890,000.00 became 90 million naira can only be a ludicrous pen magic by draconian pen arbiters hired to do a hatchet job.”

Rather than provide a breakdown of how the government spent the balance on “procurement of computer software for the health sector”, Mr Fanwo “demanded an unreserved apology from PREMIUM TIMES within the next seven days”.

“Our fiscal responsibility is mercurial and a radiant example for the nation; illuminating enough to clear the flames of reckless and irresponsible allegations that have no root in facts,” he stated.

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