NHIS scam: Reps accuse Health Minister of contempt
By KEHINDE AKINTOLA
The House of Representatives on Wednesday accused Isaac Adewole, Minister of Health of contempt of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act and plan to frustrate ongoing investigation into the allegations bothering on fraudulent activities of Health Management Organisations (HMOs).
To this extent, the House after robust debate on the motion sponsored by Chike Okafor, chairman, House Committee on Healthcare, issued seven day ultimatum to Isaac Adewole, Minister of Health to reinstate the suspended Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Usman Yusuf.
The House alleged that the NHIS helmsman’s refusal to accede to series of demand for payment of N197.073 million; $37,383 for oversea traveling to World Health Organization conference as well as exposition of fraudulent activities of the HMOs led to his suspension.
While frowning at the decision of the Minister, the lawmakers argued that Minister who was an appointed of the President, has no locus standing to suspend another appointee of the President.
The lawmakers who queried the legality or otherwise of the suspension imposed on the NHIS Executive Secretary, alleged that the Minister who was not suspended by the President despite series of documentary petitions against him, has no morale justification to suspend the NHIS boss for 90 days.
Recall that Yusuf was suspended via a memo issued by the Minister over alleged petitions sent to the Ministry of Health.
The lawmakers who decried the coincidence of the suspension which came barely a week after the NHIS Executive Secretary made startling revelation on some of the fraudulent activities being perpetuated within the Ministry and the scheme.
To this end, the House resolved to “invite the Health Minister, Prof Isaac Adewole to show cause why he should not be cited for contempt of the House as the suspension of the Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf appears to be intended to intimidate him, punish him for testifying before the House and silence him for further testifying before the House of Representatives, in its constitutional duties of investigation of issues of corruption, inefficiency and waste in governance.”
Similarly, the House requested the Minister and the acting NHIS Executive Secretary to stop henceforth every process of HMOs reaccreditation pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation mandated by the House.
The lawmakers also urged the Minister to recall the NHIS Executive Secretary, Prof. Usman Yusuf from suspension forthwith and allow him to continue with his sanitization programme in the agency.
Leading the debate on the motion, Okafor who noted that the House has the right to protect witnesses and support the anti-graft crusade of the present administration, disclosed that the Committee is in possession of documents which showed how the Ministry wanted 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 this 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 stated.
The lawmaker who applauded the hard stand of the new NHIS Executive Secretary 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 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 linkened to the fraud in the fuel subsidy scheme, stressing that they are padding figures of enrolled 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 views 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 noted.