REWARDS: Former Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala’s Latest Jobs Raise Concerns Over Abuse Of Office And Conflict Of Interest

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The announcement by Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of her two international posts with Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) and Lazard Group LLC has raised conflict of interest concerns. A day ago, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that she GAVI had appointed her a board member while the Lazard Group, an assets management firm, hired her as a “senior advisor.”

In her long career as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s actions and policies had financially benefited the two multinational entities that have engaged her, our investigations discovered.

On July 27th, 2015 SaharaReporters broke the news that the Ministry of Health had questioned the propriety and authority of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s decision to remit $2.2 million to GAVI, a major non-governmental organization. The Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) had completed a Cash Program Audit (CPA) in 2014, and accused the Ministry of Health and National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) of misusing $2.2 million meant for vaccinations in Nigeria between 2011 and 2013.

A press statement by GAVI, released on July 30th 2015, stated, “it was agreed in principle by the Minister [of Health] to repay any funds identified as having been misused.” The statement continued: “The CPA [Cash Program Audit] determined that US$2.2 million had been misused.”

GAVI finally disclosed that, pursuant to the agreement between them and the Nigerian government, the multinational organization “has since been fully reimbursed.”

But an independent investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) suggested that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s authorization of payment of $ 2.2 million to GAVI was hastily done, and against the protest of Nigeria’s Ministry of Health.

Sources within the Nigerian government, law enforcement and civil society disputed GAVI’s claims that part of the vaccination funds was misused. The groups also questioned the propriety of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s authorization of a refund to GAVI especially as the reconciliation done by several statutory agencies found that GAVI’s fund was not mismanaged in anyway. Read full on Sahara