By AMARACHUKWU OKOROAFOR
The House of Representatives yesterday alleged that the Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Prof. Yusuf Usman’s refusal to concede to demands for payment of N197.073 million for non-existing rehabilitation works, and $37,383 for oversea traveling to World Health Organization Conference as well as exposition of fraudulent activities of the HMOs earned him a suspension.
This is just as it accused the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole of contempt of the Legislative House’s Powers and Privileges Act and plan to frustrate ongoing investigation into the allegations bothering on fraudulent activities of Health Management Organisations (HMOs).
To this effect the House issued the minister a seven day ultimatum to reinstate the NHIS boss and allow him continue with the sensitization programme in the agency.
The ultimatum follows the adoption of a motion, sponsored by Hon. Chike Okafor in which he disclosed that the Committee on Health is in possession of documents which reveals that the ministry plans to turn the NHIS into an impress agency.
According to him, the suspended NHIS Executive Secretary took steps to visit the Chief Medical Directors of affected tertiary hospitals to verify the veracity of the projects which the ministry requested for the sum of N197,072,500.
“The Minister wrote to the Executive Secretary through the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Binta Adamu Bello, Ref. No: DFA/CORR/001, and dated March 28th, 2017, directing the ES to pay the sum of N197,072,500 only
for rehabilitation works in some Federal Medical Centers, contract awarded by the Ministry in 2016 and directed him to pay the money to the Ministry’s Account Number: 0020155061015 in the CBN, when there is no budgetary provision for this payment in the NHIS 2016 budget.
“The ES inquired from the CMDs as to whether there were such projects being executed, they all confirmed to the contrary.
“In another letter dated 12 May, 2017, the Permanent Secretary wrote to the ES directing him to pay the sum of $37,838 in respect to six staff of the Ministry to attend a World Health Organization Conference in Geneva, and the NHIS has no budgetary provision for such and this is contrary to an existing government circular from the office of the SGF that Ministers should not pressurize their parastatals to sponsor such requests. The fund in possession of NHIS is a contributory fund by Nigerian workers. The fund should not be used as directed,” Okafor
The lawmaker who lauded the hard stand of the new ES against corrupt officials within the system, noted that the House will not hesitate to exercise its constitutional powers if the Minister fails to comply with the House’s resolution.
“The testimony and revelations by Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, during the hearing where he decried the corruption being perpetuated by the HMOs, which he likened to the fraud in the fuel subsidy scheme, stressing that they are padding figures of enrollees so that they can get paid.
“He said that none of the 57 HMOs has a valid license as most of their accreditation has expired and vowed to ensure that any HMO owing health providers, would not be re-accredited. According to him, a total of N60 billion has been paid to HMOs without commensurate results as they owe hospitals over N2.6 billion. He maintained that
there is great corruption in the scheme adding that NHIS ICT department was used by HMOs to pad up to 23,000 enrollees,” the lawmaker stated.
Faulting the minister for suspending the Executive Secretary, the lawmakers argued that the minister, himself appointed by the president, has no locus standing to suspend another appointee of the president and pointed out the coincidence of the suspension which came barely a week after the NHIS Executive Secretary made startling
revelation on fraudulent activities being perpetuated within the ministry and the scheme.
It would be recalled that Yusuf was suspended via a memo issued by the minister over alleged petitions sent to the Ministry of Health.
The lawmakers to this end, has invited the minister to show cause why he should not be charged for contempt of the House as the suspension of the Executive Secretary points to intimidation and punishment for testifying before the House.
It added that the action was also aimed at stopping him from further testifying before the House of Representatives, in its constitutional duties of investigation of issues of corruption, inefficiency and waste in governance.
The House also requested the minister and the acting NHIS Executive Secretary to henceforth, stop every process of re-accrediting HMOs pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation.