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Can of worms as Reps begin probe of NHIS

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…Governing Board: Yusuf paid illegal N508m to consultants, diverted N25bn
…Crisis facing scheme predates Yusuf as Omogo takes over – Health Minister
The Chairman of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Governing Board, Dr Enyatu Ifenne, on Thursday, accused the suspended Executive Secretary of the NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, of fraud and mismanagement by allegedly awarding contracts worth millions of naira without approval.

Ifenne, who made the allegations at the investigative hearing being conducted by the House of Representatives ad hoc committee in respect of the crisis rocking the health insurance scheme, further accused the suspended executive secretary of misappropriation of funds and other sundry acts of financial recklessness.

She informed the House ad hoc committee that from the time the governing board was constituted till when the the executive secretary was suspended, there have been allegations of contract awards and the spending of millions of naira without approval from relevant authorities.

The suspension of the executive secretary by the governing board, she maintained, was because the board believed that the agency must be administered in a transparent and accountable manner.

She revealed that there were many issues that informed the board’s decision to suspend the executive secretary, such as “financial infractions of the executive secretary, which were queried by the board, the padding of the agency’s 2018 budget and lastly, nepotism in terms of posting and remuneration of workers”.

According to her, in 2015, N508 million was paid to consultants engaged by the NHIS boss for staff training while another N48 million was expended on staff posting without due process.

The representative of the Civil Servants Association of Health Workers, Comrade Omomeji Abdulrasak, in his presentation to the ad hoc committee, accused the suspended executive secretary of “orphaning the scheme”.

He disclosed that the suspension of Yusuf was long overdue because he had “flagrantly engaged in corruption, award of contracts without due process, abuse of public trust, nepotism in remuneration and posting of staff and diversion of public properties”.

Abdulrasak further alleged that there were several attempts by the executive secretary to move N25 billion from the coffers of the NHIS in an attempt to set up his own home office without recourse to the approving authorities, an action which was resisted by staff.

Furthermore, he added that Yusuf awarded contracts of N46 million for maintenance and another N17.5 million for capacity building to Lubek Nigeria Limited, a company in which he has controlling interest and is owned by Mr. Hassan Yusuf, his nephew.

Other financial infractions he made against the NHIS boss include expending N3.5 million for the purchase of newspapers for his office, N567million for the payment of seven police orderlies attached to him without approval.

Also, the worker’s representative alleged that the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant -General of the Federation had withdrawn N10 billion from the coffers of the agency.

Other allegations against the NHIS boss include “diversion of eight digital cameras, four security safes, two refrigerators, eight vision cameras, 1.5 KVA inverter with batteries, five wireless mouse, HP desktop computers and stabilisers”.

Addressing the committee, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said that the crisis at the NHIS predated the period of the suspended executive secretary.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari had already waded into the matter by directing the executive secretary to proceed on administrative leave while constituting a committee to properly investigate the allegations against Yusuf.

The minister stated that a director from the Ministry of Health, Mr. Ben Omogo, has been appointed to oversee the NHIS.

Adjourning the investigative hearing, Chairman of the ad hoc committee, Hon Ossai Nicholas Ossai, demanded that all documents relating to the allegations leveled against the embattled executive secretary as well as records of staff posting and other necessary documents should be made available to the committee to aid its investigation.

Meanwhile, the suspended ES Yusuf is expected to appear before the House ad hoc committee today (Friday) to make his presentation.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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