By Luminous Jannamike
ABUJA – The National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, has refuted media reports that it invested N25bn of its residual fund in federal government securities through a private firm, Cowry Asset Management Limited (CAML).
A national daily (not Vanguard) had reported that the Executive Secretary of the scheme, Prof Usman Yusuf, disregarded the warnings of the Minister for Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and her health counterpart, Prof Isaac Adewole against the said investment by authorizing the deal.
The two Ministers were reported to have opposed the investment because it contravened the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
But, speaking in a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, Prof. Yusuf emphasized that the NHIS has not entered into any investment deal with CAML. He also appealed to members of the public to disregard the piece of news he described as false.
He said: “Let us set the records straight. The NHIS has not done any wrong. Though the scheme is empowered to invest any of its fund not in use into federal government securities as stipulated in Section 4 of Part IV of its Act, it has not done so.
“However, when I assumed office in 2016, I looked into the scheme’s investment for the previous 12 years. I also ordered a forensic auditing of our funds. I have presented the report of the audit to both the Minister and the governing council.
“Just last week, at a meeting of the governing council, we discussed the issue of investing the scheme’s residual funds. And, it was unanimously agreed that the matter be stepped down or suspended as you may wish to put it..
“So, as we speak, no penny of NHIS is invested anywhere either at home or abroad. But then, we most bear in mind that NHIS is like an insurance company. Its fund is not meant to even be in TSA in the first place”
On how he handled initial staff opposition to his reinstatement, Prof Yusuf said: “I told myself and the entire staff of the scheme that ‘NHIS is not about me or you but about the lives we were entrusted to save. Let’s see our differences as distractions and cast them aside.’
“I told them my seven months suspension was, for me, a time of sober reflection. I x-rayed my relationship with the ministry; and where I made mistakes, I have pledged to correct and never repeat again.”
The NHIS boss further told the members of the scheme’s management team, present at the press conference, to buckle-up for a renaissance in service delivery.
“For a very long time, we have not been doing our work rightly. I am committed to making sure we all amend our ways. Let us pledge to doing the right thing. I assure you that we can serve our people better than we have done in the past,” he said.
Earlier, the chair of NHIS governing council, Dr. Enyantu Ifenne, stressed that the board was committed to restoring public confidence in the scheme through improved regulations;
In her words: “First, we have taken proactive steps aimed at dousing tension in the scheme, and we are regenerating public confidence in the organisation as a public entity. We have also been on a fact-finding mission.
“We have noted that the accreditation statuses of all Health Management Organisation (HMOs) under the scheme have lapsed; some as far back as 2013. This underscores the urgency of a fresh round fo accreditation.
“We also noted that five HMOs have caveat from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) slammed on them. That fact alone is an indictment on the NHIS as a public institution.
“Against that backdrop, we have directed the management of the scheme to submit to us a regulatory guideline for HMOs. We are committed to flipping the organogram of the scheme which put the lives (enrollees) at the bottom and the council at the top.
“As for HMOs, after the fresh accreditation exercise, we will create enabling environment for them to run their businesses transparently and accountably while making profit as stakeholders. Our HMOs are doing their best, but they have not been properly regulated.”