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NHIS crisis: Presidency may overrule suspension of Executive Secretary by Governing Council

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NHISTHERE was a strong indication Friday evening that the suspension placed on the Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof Usman Yusuf, may be overruled by the Presidency.

Already, the suspended Executive Secretary has defied the directive by the Governing Council that he should proceed on indefinite suspension over various forms of administrative infractions.

Prof. Yusuf was suspended by the council on Thursday over allegation of fraud, insubordination, criminal breach of Procurement Act, self-aggrandizement, arbitrariness among other offences.

But the Executive Secretary, against the pronouncement of the Governing Council, reported in his office on Friday morning, with a source informing Nigerian Tribune that he had been in contact with the Presidency.

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Till Friday evening, the source said the Executive Secretary, according to the source was still working in office.

However, reacting to the insinuations that the Presidency might overrule the Governing Council as it did, when the Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, suspended him in 2018, the Chairperson of the Governing Council, Dr Enyantu Ifenne, said the council stood by its decision, adding that if President Buhari himself should receive just ‘a tenth’ of Yusuf’s alleged misdeeds, he would sack him immediately.

She said: “Let those who hide under cover of the Presidency to protect corruption know that Nigerians are keenly watching. I am convinced that if President Buhari is fully briefed about a tenth of Yusuf atrocities, he would throw him out!

“The truth, like health, has no colour, no tribe and no religion and no social class. The council stands by its decision.”

Saturday Tribune also gathered that the matter had been taken to the Federal Ministry of Health.

Specifically, the Permanent Secretary, Abdullahi Mashi, was said to have been contacted by the ES over the suspension.

Mashing according to source, allegedly told him to interpret the NHIS Act if the Governing Council has the power to suspend him.

The source said: “Professor Yusuf has a lot of petitions against him from the public as noted by the Governing Council on Thursday before he was suspended. This the Council said should be investigated by the administrative panel set up to probe him.

“As a civil servant, he cannot remain in office while he is being probed. He was given only three months to step aside. He should abide by that decision, except his hands are not clean.”

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had suspended the Executive Secretary in June 2016 over similar allegations, but President Buhari later reinstated him.

His reinstatement by President Buhari, while he ignored the health minister, attracted condemnations from Nigerians who saw his reinstatement as a huge dent on the president’s anti-corruption crusade.

He was being probed for N919 million fraud at the time; but after his reinstatement, nothing was heard of the probe.

When the Governing Council addressed a press conference to announce his suspension on Thursday, the Chairperson said the Council derived its power from the NHIS Act.

Dr. Ifenne said: “Our power is derived from the law. We base our decisions on the provisions of the law. We base our decision on the provisions of the law that allow NHIS governing council to take expedite and appropriate actions to make sure that the objectives of the scheme are achieved.”

Fielding question further on what the council would do, should the presidency overrule its decision and reinstate him as it did earlier, Ifenne said she didn’t envisage such an action.

Also, a document made available to journalists by the council detailed alleged offences of the suspended Executive Secretary.

The document reads: “At the inauguration of the Council in March 2018, NHIS had no approved budget for its activities for 2018. Therefore, the Council underscored passing the 2018 budget as priority. Unfortunately, management of the scheme seemed unmindful of the financial and operation risks and consequences of running a public entity without approved budget. Sadly, 10 months into the financial year, the scheme has no approved budget.

“To arrest the drift and expedite progress, the finance committee and council held five meetings, dedicated to the budget culminating in a resolution on 24th July, 2018 which directed the Executive Secretary to amend, reflecting final council positions and represent for chairman’s signature for chairman’s signature to avoid further delay.

“Some highlights of the required amendments include the following: Removal of the N264 million padding discovered in the budget proposal; reduction of the 2018 training budget from over N1 billion to a realistic N250 million naira to avoid the training stampede in 2017 when N919,664,800 was spent, in just three months, without needs assessment and departmental training plans.

“Removal of the N100 million posting and transfer provision since the council had adopted an earlier policy that transfer/postings shall be contingent upon outcome of comprehensive staff audit to enable the scheme align transfers and posting with needs, structure, skills and organisations.

“Removal of the frivolous provision of N50 million for an additional SUV for the ES, considering that one was acquired for him last year.

“However, after many reminders through council members, the ES forwarded the budget document on the 6th August 2018 without the amendments as directed. The chairman subsequently, returned the budget document two weeks later with detailed analysis. Significantly, till date, there has been no response, compliance nor correspondence on the matter whatsoever from the ES despite written reminders sent to him by the chairman.

“Fraudulent inflation of the cost of biometric capturing machines: The 2018 budget proposal submitted by the ES included the procurement of biometric capturing machines at a unit cost of N11,500,000.00, whereas, the market cost is only between N700,000.00 and N1,400,000.00, depending on specifications. When council finance committee requested for more information and vendor presentation to justify the astronomical cost, the ES blatantly refused to oblige. It is significant that the ICT project cost escalated, without justification, by 242% from N7,783,185,805.37 in 2015 to N18,864,676,612.85 in 2016 and N14,975,032,572.30 in 2018. Unfortunately, the ICT project which should significantly improve operational efficiency and service delivery is stalled because executive secretary denied council critical information required for decision making on the project.”

His other offenses are: Attempt to illegally execute N30 billion investment bonds; unlawful staff postings and willful defiance of council directive, willful refusal to implement council directive on the disbanding of illegal union, unauthorized staff travel in defiance of council directive, superfluous arrogation of project vehicles, insurbodinate conduct by the executive secretary, failure to provide leadership for the development of a strategic plan for the agency despite council’s directive, plethora of petitions against the executive secretary

The document added: “At the inauguration on the Council on 5th March 2018, NHIS was in turmoil and the council proactively intervened to douse tensions. We were determined to set a clear path to refocus the agency and regain stakeholder, public and government confidence in the agency.

“However, despite council efforts, nine months later, NHIS is back in turmoil. Unfortunately, the Governing Council is trapped in a vicious cycle of conflict and corruption management. Our dreams to contribute the rich resource of members’ professional, corporate and administrative experience to add value to federal government of Nigeria vision for the agency is constantly frustrated by the non-collegial leadership approach of the Executive Secretary. We are pained that council meetings are reduced to acrimonious and confrontational platform for management staff and Executive Secretary to air petitions and counter petitions of corruption and present frivolous house-keeping matters.

“In fact, council efforts to reset the agenda, refocus the agency on a strategic path and change the narrative is resisted at every turn.”

The post NHIS crisis: Presidency may overrule suspension of Executive Secretary by Governing Council appeared first on Tribune.

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