Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has been accused of setting up a committee that was neither independent nor free from biases, that investigated the Executive Secretary (ES) of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf, who was suspended for gross misconduct.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, since, ordered the recall of the ES who had been suspended by the minister, in June 2017.
A panel commissioned by the minister after Yusuf’s suspension later found him culpable of infractions that ranged from nepotism to theft of public funds.
A Presidency source who pleaded for anonymity said, from the composition of the committee, it was obvious that the committee was neither independent nor free from biases.
According to the source, some of the allegations brought against Yusuf by the United Youth Alliance Against Corruption, (UYAC) and the Association of Senior Civil Servants could not be substantiated, adding that no evidence was brought forward in the 20 of the 23 allegations.
The source added that allegations were obviously concocted as there were evident alterations and mix-ups in dates on some of the petitions.
The source who described the reactions that has greeted the recall of Yusuf as “rash”, said it was however necessary to put out some points that having been deliberately kept away from the public.
According to the source, “Prof. Usman Yusuf was appointed on August 1, 2016 to inject fresh life into the operations of the NHIS after the removal of the erstwhile Chief Executive officer of the organisation.
“It is common knowledge that the Executive Secretary of the NHIS took over the organisation following his appointment along with heads of similar organisations in the health department of government.
“It is also well documented that most of the agencies in the Health sector were facing credibility issues which were threatening continued assistance from donor partners that the health sector really relied on from time to time. It was well reported that that foreign donor partners were threatening to stop funding of critical projects in the country due to lack of transparency, poor administration and gross incompetence.
“The fact is that It was against this background that President Buhari made the appointment and the ES immediately set to work with a team that he could work with to remedy the situation on the ground.
“It was well known that the implementation of the Health Insurance Scheme was facing a lot of criticisms especially with the way the Health Management Occasions (HMOs) were short-changing the system, leading to a situation where subscribers to the scheme were not getting the best out of it due to sharp practices on the part of the HMOs and health providers.
“But barely one year into his assumption of office, was Prof Usman suspended by the Minister of health on the strength of a petition by the United Youth Alliance Against Corruption, UYAC and Association of Senior Civil Servants.
“The Minister, relying on the petition, constituted a 17-man committee under the headship of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry to look into the petition by this body of Civil servants. Out of the 17 members of the committee, 16 of them were staff of the Ministry while one member was from the Department of State Services (DSS).
“The request for a nomination from the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) was declined because they feared a conflict of interest.
“From the composition of the committee, it was obvious that the committee was neither independent nor free from biases.
“Some of the allegations brought against the Executive Secretary by the UYAC could not be substantiated in 20 of the 23 allegations as no evidence was brought forward. Others were obviously concocted as there were evident alterations and mix-ups in dates on some of the petitions.
“In his bid to strengthen the weaknesses identified in the execution of the insurance scheme and in the procurement processes, Prof Usman got competent staff seconded to him from relevant organisations in the short run while a comprehensive long term staff replacement was being worked on. These efforts eventually were thwarted and the officers thereby de-seconded in deference to public service bureaucratic norms as advised by the Federal Ministry of Labour.
“As part of the N919, 000,000 alleged to have been mismanaged by the ES, it is on record that N411, 688, 704 was paid to NHIS staff as allowances and also to seconded staff as allowances and entitlements when he resumed.
“Payments to the Consultants mentioned in the petition went through normal procurement protocol established in the organisation before approval by the Executive Secretary subject to ratification of the Executive Management of the organisation.
“Records within the organisation show that not one NHIS contracts was subjected to Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) review within the 2013-2017 period and it was in a view to addressing these anomalies that NHIS wrote to the BPP and other similar organisations to strengthen the procurement functions of the organisation.
“It is not unlikely that there are some individuals or groups who are very comfortable with the old order of doing things that are hiding behind the petition writers.
“It is equally clear from the investigation that the Presidency identified an acute lack of capacity in the NHIS as organization and unless a new set of competent managers are found and recruited, the objectives of setting up of the a NHIS may remain a mirage.
“This is why the Minister was directed to work with the Executive Secretary to redress some of the identified shortcomings within the organisations to avoid a breakdown of one of the federal Government’s flagship programmes and truncate the intention of government to expand the scope of beneficiaries of health insurance scheme and indeed broaden government’s efforts in repositioning the health sector,” the source said.