The suspended Executive Secretary (ES) of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Professor Usman Yusuf, claimed yesterday that his refusal pay the Federal Ministry of Health N975m for a job NHIS was not aware of was responsible for his current ordeal.
He told a House of Representatives investigative public hearing on the crisis rocking NHIS that a probe panel set up by the Health Ministry was meant to indict him.
He alleged that the panel was paid N19m from NHIS account.
Yusuf, who made his presentation at the final day of the Nicholas Ossai-led investigative ad hoc panel also regretted that Health Management Organizations (HMOs) have not added value to the scheme despite drawing hugely from the funds.
Health Minister Isaac Adewole, in his submission through the Permanent Secretary, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, said Yusuf was initially investigated and suspended on the strength of petitions from workers and other stakeholders.
He said the ES was accused of the unauthorised appointment of staff into the scheme, incurring expenditures without due process, giving approval above the threshold of the ES, flagrant disregard for due process in procurement matters, financial irregularities and award of contract with impunity.
HMOs also accused Yusuf of blackmailing them into refunding monies that legally accrued to them back to NHIS, in addition to the entire 59 HMOs being forced to patronise one insurance brokering firm.
The HMOs also accused Yusuf of mismanaging Information and Communications Technology (ICT) fund meant to automate the activities of the organization.
In his response, Yusuf said reference to the first investigation by the minister was an “ambush” because it had been dealt with.
He, however, expressed reservations over some of the allegations raised against him.
Saying that his refusal to release N975m to the Ministry of Health was the beginning of his problems with the ministry, the ES added, “This led to the setting up of a panel to probe me and the panel delivered as the panelists were given N19m and even the security too were given money.
“My suspension was a preemptive coup against transparency. Why was I suspended on October 18 and not October 19? October 18 was the day I was going to present a result of the forensic audit of the activities of HMOs.
“October 18 was nothing but preemptive coup at the NHIS. It was a gang-up to stop my fight against corruption”.
He also refuted HMOs’ allegation of being blackmailed into making a refund to NHIS that was tied to accreditation as well as being forced to patronise a single brokering firm.
According to him, the Department of State Services (DSS) had been investigating NHIS for corruption due to payments made in 2012 and that by 2017, he was sent a letter by DSS that the money should be recouped and should no more be paid to the HMOs and the ICT Department fixed to prevent future occurrence.
“That’s what informed my vigour in collecting that money, ” he added.
The suspended ES also explained that some tough measures adopted against HMOs were necessitated by the manipulation of the funds whereby the HMOs, since inception, have failed to bring in more people on board other than civil servants.
He also said the policy of patronising a brokering firm was not his idea, adding that it was initiated before his assumption of duty in 2016.
He said: “Why are the health providers not being paid by HMOs despite accessing money from NHIS?
“I saw a huge number of insurance firms and I asked how come we have HMOs presenting to us advanced payment guarantee that will insure what we gave them.
“How come they are not paying hospitals and we are having debts, N400m, an HMO is not paid, N300m in some cases?
“I was curious, if you present me an advanced payment guarantee and I give you money, if you don’t pay, my problem is not with you but with the insurance company that gives that.
“We have not been activating the advanced payment guarantee. So we looked at the consortium and what they used to do is to give the HMOs a N100m for an insurance of N10.00. Worthless.
“On the ones we picked, there was a due process and a new consortium was put in place.
“It was done in 2016 and a management deceit before I came”.
He also refuted allegation of disregard for due process on financial management and procurement, saying after the organization’s funds were swept into the Treasury Single Account (TSA), he had to open five sub accounts for the organisation for transparency.
To further throw light on the issue, the panel has summoned the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to give account of all they know about the agency.
Chairman of the investigation panel, Ossai, pledged that the report of the exercise would be fair to all concerned.