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Punch Newspaper Headline (16th April, 2019)

FG probe panel recommends NHIS

FG probe panel recommends NHIS

  • FG probe panel recommends NHIS boss sacking, board’s dissolution

A copy of the report which was obtained by The PUNCH accused Yusuf of breaching the Public Procurement Act as well as the Public Service Rules. The seven-man committee headed by Dr Hassan Bukar, a retired permanent secretary, nonetheless, did not recommend Yusuf for prosecution.

The committee added that the NHIS boss, who has been on suspension since November 2018, had an unhealthy relationship with members of staff of the agency; local unions, health management organisations and health care providers. This, the panel said, would have a negative effect on the health sector if he was allowed to retain his position. Yusuf, who said, “Fu*k the Minister of Health” during an interview with The PUNCH in 2017, was also accused of embarrassing the government through his unguarded social media comments.

The committee said the NHIS boss deserved to be dismissed for failing to explore internal administrative remedies before suing the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the NHIS last November.

The report read in part, “Relieve the executive secretary of his appointment. Justification: Inability to work in harmony with all the relevant stakeholders in the scheme for the attainment of the scheme’s mandate. “Established cases of infractions of the Public Service Rules i.e. insubordination and refusal to carry out lawful instructions from superior authorities (governing council and the Federal Ministry of Health) contrary to PSR Rule 030301 (0), unauthorised public utterances contrary to Rule 030421 (id), and relevant service-wide circulars. “Established cases of infraction of the following provisions of the Public Procurement Act: Sections 16(6) and 32(7). “Infraction of Rule 3125(i) (a) and (b) of the Financial Regulations; “Embarrassed government through unguarded social media comments.”

The panel also recommended for immediate removal the 13 senior officers improperly seconded to the NHIS from other government agencies by the suspended NHIS boss. The committee also recommended the immediate dissolution of the Dr Eyanatu Ifienne-led NHIS governing council for suspending Yusuf when it clearly had no constitutional powers to do so. It said there was a crisis within the governing council of the scheme and this could negatively affect the smooth running of the agency.

The report partly read, “Dissolve the governing council. Justification: The panel observed the role of the governing council in the present imbroglio and noted from the interactions that the council has become factionalised and is incapable of providing the required leadership for the scheme. “The governing council embarrassed the government by exceeding its mandate when it suspended the executive secretary.”

The committee subsequently advised the Federal Government to appoint an interim management team to avoid a vacuum and ensure the smooth running of the scheme. It said the proposed committee would have a six-month lifespan and should be led by a seasoned administrator with a health system experience and other technical members drawn from the offices of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Bureau of Public Procurement and Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

The panel said the proposed committee would report to the Presidency during its tenure. It called on the Federal Government to amend the Act establishing the NHIS to make health insurance compulsory for Nigerians even as it advised the government to ensure that “the NHIS is ICT driven.” Investigations by The PUNCH showed that the committee report was submitted to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, on December 24, 2018.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari government has failed to take any action in almost five months, thereby worsening the ongoing crisis in the health sector. The NHIS crisis began in early 2017 when it was alleged by members of staff and the organised labour that Yusuf was diverting public funds to private use. He was said to have brought in 13 officers from other government agencies and gave them undue promotion.

The NHIS boss was subsequently suspended by the Minister of Health in July 2017 while a committee was set up to investigate Yusuf. The committee accused Yusuf of fraud to the tune of N919m and recommended that anti-graft agencies investigate and prosecute him if need be. However, Yusuf, who is said to be close to the cabal at the Presidency, was asked to return to his position, an action that triggered public outrage. Months after his return, Yusuf again ran into trouble with the governing council of the NHIS for, amongst other things, paying consultants N508m without due process.

Recall that the Assistant Director of Information, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olusegun Adetola, in an interview with The PUNCH on April 17 named the just-concluded general elections as the reason the Federal Government had yet to make public the outcome of the probe initiated into an alleged fraud of N919m in the NHIS. Adetola, in the interview, said, “As you are aware, the report has been submitted to the SGF and forwarded to the President. We had general elections that were completed only last week and that involved many government agencies. “The report was submitted just before election activities began. This must have delayed the public presentation. I am sure that soon, it will be made public. It is not a forgotten document.”

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