July 24, 2017

NHIS boss’ suspension: We must quiz Health Minister, Reps insist

Professor Isaac Adewole

…Give 35 HMOs Wednesday deadline

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

ABUJA—The House of Representatives has insisted on interrogating the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, to ascertain reasons he suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Professor Usman Yusuf, in the wake of an investigation.

Chairman of House Committee on Health, Chike Okafor, who, weekend, asked the minister to appear before the committee on Thursday, also gave Wednesday as deadline for the 35 recalcitrant Health Management Organisations, HMOs, to make their financial records available to commissioned auditors for payment update from the NHIS.

Recall that the committee is currently investigating the alleged mismanagement of N351 billion paid to HMOs by the NHIS between 2005 and 2017.

Professor Isaac Adewole

The committee had recently conducted a two-day public hearing where scary revelations of financial mismanagement by HMOs were made by the NHIS Executive Secretary, Yusuf.

On the heels of the testimony, the Health Minister suspended him for three months, a development which angered the federal lawmakers who swiftly, through a motion at a plenary, ordered the Health Minister to recall the NHIS boss, fearing that his suspension would jeopardize their investigations into the financial mismanagement.

The House further mandated the minister to appear before it to convince the lawmakers of his action against the Executive Secretary.

Okafor said the minister was due to appear before his committee as mandated by the House on Thursday.

“We have written the minister to invite him to appear before us as mandated by the House. The date given in the letter is Thursday, 27 July. I have been in touch with the minister and the last time we spoke, he told me he was traveling to Ibadan on Friday for the burial of the late Executive-Director of UNFPA, Prof Babatunde Osotimehin.

“He didn’t tell me he wouldn’t be able to appear before the committee. The right procedure is for him to write the committee, if he will not appear before us and as I speak with you, we haven’t received any letter from him, so I believe we will be meeting with him on Thursday,”, he said.

On the books of the HMOs, the lawmaker regretted that of 59 HMOs, only 24 had opened their books for auditing.

Giving heed to the principle of fair hearing, Okafor said it would only be human that the defaulting HMOs submit their records on or before Wednesday to the auditors working on behalf the committee for proper scrutiny.

“As we announced on the final day of the public hearing on the allegations of fraud in health insurance administration and the maltreatment on enrollees on NHIS, the committee sent auditors to Lagos State to thoroughly scrutinise the books of HMOs.

“This was done in order to compare the figures the NHIS said it paid HMOs overtime, to what they actually received. So far, the auditors have gone through the accounts of 24 of them, with 35 of these companies yet to meet with those we sent.

“The NHIS provided us with all the documents to show how much they paid, but we cannot conclude the investigation without checking what the HMOs received and this is why we have given them till Wednesday to allow for a checking of their account.

“But if they don’t comply, we will be compelled to move on because we are bent on submitting our report on Thursday. The HMOs are the only parties delaying us, because like I said, NHIS has given us documents on the monies paid and we’ve also had good responses from hospitals and care givers,” Okafor said.