Where is the N720 billion “invested” by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in the last 12 years?
Nobody seems to have an answer. Not even NHIS boss Prof. Usman Yusuf.
He said the “investments” had no approvals of successive Ministers of Health, past boards of the NHIS and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF).
He said billions were lost to diversion and under-payment of interest.
Banks, former Executive Secretaries, select management staff and interest groups were all neck-deep in the scandal, Yusuf alleged.
According to the NHIS Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, there is no trace yet of the N720billion.
Yusuf opened the lid on the corrupt practices in NHIS in a power-point presentation to the agency’s Governing Council in response to a query by the board.
He said when he discovered the scandal, he engaged forensic accountants to get to the root of the matter.
A team raised by the Federal Government had discovered that over N138billion of the NHIS cash was trapped in 17 banks, financial companies and individuals’ pockets from January 2011 to date.
In a memo to the Executive Secretary, the Chairman of the Governing Council of NHIS, Dr. Enyantu lfenne, asked him to “clear these concerns(trapped funds and Forensic Audit) and guide Council on the way forward.”
In his response to the query, the Executive Secretary said the rot in the NHIS was unimaginable.
He said: “Over N720billion of NHIS funds were “invested” over 12 years. No approvals from Minister, Board or Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation(OAGF).
“There was no transparency. In the deals were the Chief Executive Officers, banks and other interest groups. Billions of Naira were lost to diversion and underpayment of interest.
“The Executive Secretaries and select management staff were all neck deep in this.”
The Executive Secretary gave insights into the rot he inherited in NHIS and the dispute over forensic audit of the finances/ investments of the agency.
He added: “When I resumed in August 1, 2016, I could not ascertain the state of the finances of the Scheme. My preliminary findings from the review of financial records were shocking to say the least.
“I was unable to ascertain how much of the Scheme’s funds was with commercial banks, for how long and at what rate of return.
“It was unclear to me how much of the Scheme’s money was still with commercial banks before TSA and how much was transferred to TSA.
“The audited accounts of the Scheme for years ended 31st December 2011 to 2016 were in arrears and had not been signed by the previous CEOs.
“In view of all these anomalies and to bring transparency in the finances of the Scheme on December 21st 2016, I engaged the services of professional accounting firm Messrs. Sofura Professional Services to carry out a forensic review of the Scheme’s accounting system and banking transactions.
“Their scope of work included reconciliation of all NHIS current and investment accounts held with commercial banks, reconciliation of NHIS TSA with the CBN.
“Upon their engagement, I called a meeting of NHIS Management made up of all heads of departments and introduced the firm and its partners and the work they have been engaged to do.
“After the meeting, the firm began its work reviewing documents and interacting with relevant staff. I was briefed regularly by the firm on the progress of the work.
“As part of the work, I wrote letters to commercial banks requesting and mandating them to give them all necessary cooperation relating to their engagement.
“Terms of their engagement were clearly spelt out in their letter of engagement; (I) An annual engagement fee of N2, 300,000.00 per annum for retainership and;
”Reimbursable expenses and fees for each specific service undertaken for the Scheme as may be agreed upon by both parties from time to time will be paid on submission of evidence for payment to the Scheme at the end of each assignment.
“I am pleased to report that this is the first time in the 13-year history of the NHIS that a forensic audit has been undertaken in the operation of the Scheme including a review of the records of the Finance & Accounts, Contribution Management, Audit and Procurement Departments.
“Following my resumption from suspension on February 6, 2018, I became aware of the engagement of Aruna Bawa & Co. by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation to carry out an audit and recovery of NHIS funds held by financial institutions, Companies and individuals into the Federal Government’s treasury.
“The information on the basis of which Aruna Bawa & Co. sought to recover NHIS funds is a product of work that I, as the CEO of NHIS, commissioned by engaging Messrs Sofura Professional Services.
“It is noteworthy that Bawa the principal partner of Aruna Bawa & Co. worked for Sofura professional Services on this assignment.
“In the course of the work, I knew Mr Aruna Bawa as a member of the Sofura team. NHIS has never had any contractual agreement with Mr Bawa or his firm.
“On March 5, 2018, I wrote a letter to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) asking him to cancel the engagement of Aruna Bawa and his firm as it was based on misrepresentation and that NHIS has no contractual agreement with him.
“I visited the NHIS Council Chairman at her home after inauguration of the board and told her about the issue and that I had written a letter to the AGF asking him to cancel Mr Bawa’s engagement.
“The Chairman suggested I should see the AGF and personally brief him which I promptly did.
“I have been receiving letters from banks asking me to confirm if Bawa is representing the Scheme.
“I have written to the AGF asking him to write to him and all the institutions he had introduced him.
”Messrs Sofura Professional Services is the only legitimate firm that the Scheme has a valid contract with and have been working since engagement.
“In fact, I authorized them to meet with the CBN team yesterday to explain their work at the request of the CBN team which they gave me an update on.
”Apparently, Bawa has been going to the Chairman’s house with bags of documents telling her that I and Messrs Sofura Professional Partners have ulterior motives in our quest to recover NHIS funds, hence the Chairman’s “query”.
The NHIS Executive Secretary also explained why he attended the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland from May 21 to 26.
He said the trip was not a jamboree as being insinuated in some quarters.
He said: “The World Health Assembly is an annual event by Ministers of Health from member nations.
“Nigeria’s delegation included the Minister of State for Health(HMSH) as the leader and heads of Agencies under the Federal Ministry of Health(FMoH).
“The theme of the Assembly this year was Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC). As a signatory to the Commitment to UHC, Nigeria’s delegation was ably represented by the
NHIS which is the lead Agency in Nigeria’s drive to UHC.
“With the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to fund the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) for the first time since the passing of the National Health Act, the NHIS will receive N275bn to cover vulnerable Nigerians across all geopolitical zones.
All our development partners are very excited for our government’s political will.
“The World Bank and Gates Foundation have already committed an initial $20m into the fund.
“NHIS delegation of only five was grossly inadequate considering the multiple presentations on UHC, Healthcare financing, Equity in Health care, Resource mobilization, aggregation of fragmented pools etc.”
The Governing Council of NHIS was yet to take action on the submissions of the Executive Secretary and response to its query as at the time of filing this report.
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