Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo has waded into fresh allegations of financial malfeasance running into several billions of naira at the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The allegations, according to available documents, can be divided into three broad categories, including financial irregularities and violations of due process; fraudulent activities by Health Maintenance Organisations (HMO) and bank fraud and unaccounted earnings.
It was discovered that in 2004, a budgetary provision of N500 million was made for the purchase of land for NHIS permanent site. However, N990 million was spent for the project approved vide voucher NHIS/ADMIN/002/2015.
Also, on December 22, 2014 through memo number NHIS/CMD/12/Vol.VII, the sum of N193.3 billion was placed in a fixed deposit account with 11 commercial banks at two per cent interest rate, at a time when the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) was 9.2 per cent.
Sunday Tribune learnt that following some whistle blowing, management conducted an investigation, which recommended that termination of appointment of a number of staff and subsequent prosecution. The matter was eventually swept under the carpet.
Extant financial regulations at the agency stipulates that monetary approvals in excess of N2,500.000 must be ratified by the board before approval for disbursement must be given.
However, a former Executive Secretary reportedly unilaterally paid N1.05 billion to some HMOs under the guise of arrears without approval or authorisation from the board. This was queried by the Auditor General of the Federation in the 2005 audit report.
A civil society organisation, Citizens Action To Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN), at a press conference at the weekend, also accused some prominent politicians as being the promoters of some of the HMOs, that had been regularly collecting three months advance payment for onward transfer to hospitals and other healthcare providers without remitting such.
Mr Ibrahim Garba Wala, who spoke on behalf of the coalition, said: “Unfortunately, these organisations have been corrupted and skewed against the citizens. While the HMOs often get paid three months in advance, the hospitals do not receive their money and as a result, several hospitals are being owed.”
There are also allegations that as at March 31, 2015, more than 70 per cent of HMOs had failed to pay hospitals that rendered services to enrollees their due sum of N2.442 billion for capitation and N298 million for service fees in 19 Northern states; N318.4 million capitations and N49.9 million service fees in 17 southern states.
“This is in spite of the fact that all HMOs had been collecting billions advanced them upfront for every three months throughout 2015 and 2016. Thus the total amount due to hospitals being held illegally by some HMOs from the verification conducted in March 2017 stands at N3.1 billion,” Wala alleged.
In addition, there are allegations that some top management staff of NHIS have been conniving with deposit money banks to fleece the organisation of interests that would have accrued from bank investments.
In total, 13 banks have been unable to account for N5.9 billion interest accruable from N880.0 billion investments, aside refusal to remit N35 billion to Treasury Single Account (TSA) with central bank.
CATBAN therefore, demanded the arrest and prosecution of all staff of NHIS and deposit money banks involved in the shady deals.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Ade Ipaye, in a memo titled “Invitation to a follow-up meeting on concealment and potential loss of government funds by Aso Savings and Loans Plc,” directed by Osinbajo, summoned Acting Executive Secretary/ CEO of NHIS, Mr Femi Akingbade to a meeting to clear some of the issues.
Also, Auditor General of the Federation (AuGF), Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Department of State Security Services (DSS), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are all investigating some of these allegations and more at NHIS.
Nigerian Tribune is in possession of several documents where these investigative bodies have made several recommendations including AuGF recommending the remittance of “N3.716 billion being interest yielded from investments totaling N122.8 billion to the Consolidated Revenue Fund immediately; explain reasons for the fixed term deposit with banks without approval from AGF; and state reasons for violating the above circulars.”
AuGF also accused NHIS of paying N1.6 billion on excess personnel without appropriation; N1.5 billion payments on rent, dressing and furniture allowances not contained in approved salary structure; illegal deduction of N8.4 billion from income accruable to HMOs as administrative charges.
A DSS memo titled “Forwarding of Investigation Report on Maladministration and Financial Fraud at the NHIS in 2015”, dated 4th April, 2017 found that data base of NHIS was compromised and management was aware; that the scheme still used the compromised database to make dubious payment of N1.050 billion among other findings.