UCTH management grappling with N1.7B debts backlog
…appeals to creditors for patience
By Our Admin
The Management of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital in Cross River State has made a passionate appealed for patience to contractors who are being owed by the hospital as part of the backlog of debt totaling N1.7billion inherited in 2019 by the present leadership under Prof. Ikpeme A. Ikpeme as the Chief Medical Director.
The head of the hospital’s Legal Unit, Francis I. Otu Esq. reiterated the appeal on Thursday saying the CMD had earlier made the appeal directly to the concerned contractors in a number of meetings held in May,2019 and the second one in January 2021.
Otu said it was necessary to continually reiterate the responsiveness of the present management of UCTH which took over in April 2019 and inherited a backlog of debt amounting to N1.7billion.
He said it has not been an easy task for the leadership of the hospital under Prof. Ikpeme, but being a man who got the job for a good purpose and with a vision he moved to verify numerous claims from contractors, some of which dated as far back as 2011 and he tried to schedule repayment of the verified claims as funds are available.
He maintained that the essence of the appeal to contractors is the determination of the hospital management to ensure that the Hospital is not strangulated in terms of service delivery to patients and the general public.
“The appeal was equally made to some contractors who chose the part of petitioning the EFCC”, Otu Esq. noted.
He acknowledged that a few contractors had also taken the hospital to court but the present management have pursued out-of-Court settlement agreements with them and “so far the present hospital management has paid over N300million from the N1.7billion debt inherited.”
Asked of the recent publication in one of the National dailies where the hospital was “said to be owing the contractor by name Obi Achara Nig. Ltd. The sum of N68million and that the out of court settlement talks had broken down, hence the return to court by the contractor”, Otu said he would want to respect the court process and not talk on it.
He however added, “Since the contractor is the one that has gone back to court and also had media coverage of the proceedings, please talk to him; do your investigation and get the truth.”
A copy of the Out-of-Court terms of settlement in the suit N0. HC/316/2020 between Obi Achara Nig. Ltd & anor Vs. UCTH management Board & 2 ORS obtained by our correspondent shows that the parties in the case agreed to the facts that the actual debt owed by the hospital in terms of actual work executed is N38.8million which the hospital agreed to paid in an installment of four times starting from this year 2021 and spreading into next year- 2022.
In a telephone interview, Counsel to the Claimants- Obi Achara Nig. Ltd. Eta Akpama Esq confirmed that they agreed to the actual account due for payment by the hospital to be N38.8million and not N68million.
Akpama said what broke the Out-of-Court settlement talks is the mode of payment proposed by the hospital management.
“They have not shown sufficient faith to pay and there are not specific payment dates,” he claimed.
Correspondence from the Claimant’s lawyer to the hospital shows that while the Claimant wants the agreed amount paid in an installment of three times as in 1st installment paid in first week of March 2021, 2nd installment paid in first week of April 2021 and 3rd installment paid in first week of May 2021. The defendants, -UCTH insisted that they can only pay the agreed amount in four installments with the 1st and 2nd installments scheduled for the second and last quarters of the year 2021; the remaining two installments to be paid in the first and third quarter of the year 2022.
Our findings also revealed that another point of disagreement in the settlement talks is the proposal by the Claimants’ lawyer that the solicitors’ fees of N5million be borne by both the claimants and the Defendants at the rate of N3million by the Claimants and N2million by the Defendants.
The Judge who had approved the out-of-Court settlement for the case, upon a motion by the Claimants to return to the court, adjourned the matter for Pre-trial and Hearing notice to March 9, 2021; insisting that the claimants should put the defendants on notice before the next adjourned date.
A reliable source in the hospital revealed that “due to the Hospital’s low Internally Generated Revenue and other competing debts to be defrayed by the hospital, the management schedules debt repayment to it convenience because it has to meet the primary service to patients and the general public.”
The Claimants project in the Hospital was the contraction of Center for Emergency Pathogens Research and Management. The contract was awarded in 2017 and not completed to specification by the time the new hospital management took over. However, as at 2020 when the Corona Virus pandemic broke out, the hospital decided to use the center as an isolation center and moved to equip it accordingly.