The House of Representatives’ Committee on Finance has queried the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Mohammed Sambo, over how the scheme had been spending its resources, particularly during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.
Members of the committee scrutinised the books of the NHIS at an investigative hearing on revenue generation and remittance by ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government on Monday.
The lawmakers, who expressed anger, took turns to query several items on the list of expenses provided by the scheme in its written submission to the committee, The Punch reports.
Deputy Chairman, Saidu Abdullahi, and members of the House Committee on Finance criticised the N152,487,900 said to have been spent on procurement of hand sanitisers, face masks and gloves during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020.
The NHIS, in the projects and contracts executed in 2020, said N37,186,825 was spent on the purchase of 500 packs of N95 face masks and 500 packs of disposable face masks, while the supply of 5,000 pieces of disposable face masks cost N2,423,750 and 500 bottles of hand sanitisers (500ml) gulped N2,423,750.
The scheme also stated that the supply of customised hand sanitisers with customised logo on June 26, 2020, cost N47.970 million, while the disposable face masks delivered the same day cost N30,724,200 as well as another supply of disposable face masks at N15.951 million.
The lawmakers also queried the N2.472 million spent on supply of 1,000 litres of diesel in January 2020; N2.408m spent on 8,000 litres of diesel at the Utako office of the NHIS in Abuja, in March 2020; and another N2.255m spent on 8,000 litres of diesel at its Annex Office in Wuse II, Abuja; among other supplies.
They also queried the sum of N49.2 million spent on “vital contributors programme for hosting/support of office websites and functionaries” in March 2020, while N120.247m was spent on beautification of an external wall with cladding at Wuse II as well as the N109.652m to procure and install additional furniture, among others.
A member of the committee, Nicholas Ossai, particularly said he had spotted over 40 items for which millions of naira were expended, which needed to be queried.
In defence, Sambo said some of the expenditures fell under the Corporate Social Responsibility package of the NHIS for some social workers on the frontline.
He said, “On the huge expenditure to the tune of millions with respect to the COVID-19 items, we are National Health Insurance Scheme; we are supposed to be a strategic purchasing agency by mandate.”
“During COVID-19, there was a plan of the Ministry of Health on sectoral response to COVID-19 and because we are dealing with healthcare facilities, we all know that at the beginning of COVID-19, most of the healthcare workers abandoned their duty posts because they did not have items for their protection.
“As part of our corporate social responsibility, we identified first line organisations like police and so on. We gave them those items and we also recognised hospitals that had a huge enrolment of NHIS enrollees and we supplied them with these items.
“All the documents are available if lawmakers need them. So, this expenditure is not restrictive to NHIS. We have been directed to ensure the protection of our people.”
The NHIS boss also told the committee that the scheme generated from the tenders paid by contractors, N1.61 million in 2019; N620,000 in 2020; and N700,000 so far in 2021.
Sambo said, “The total revenue generation for 2019 was N32.14 million; for 2020, it is N58.9 million and for 2021, it is N18.5 million.
“We have remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of N20.5 million, which represents 25 per cent of the total revenue for 2019. We have remitted N14.7 million, which represents 25 per cent for 2020. And for 2021; we have remitted N4.46 million and all the evidence of remittances are encapsulated in this submission.”