More facts have emerged on why President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the reinstatement of the Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Usman Yusuf.
A top government official said the suspended executive secretary was reinstated because the Presidency believed that the allegations which formed the basis of his suspension by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, remained largely unsubstantiated.
A top government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity disclosed this to some journalists on Wednesday evening.
The source also said the government’s position was that the committee constituted by the minister to investigate Yusuf was neither independent nor free from bias.
He claimed that 20 of the 23 allegations levelled against the NHIS boss were not backed with evidence while others appeared concocted because of evident alterations and mix-ups in dates.
The top source recalled that Buhari decided to appoint Yusuf at a time the Health Management Organisations were short-changing the system, leading to a situation where subscribers to the scheme were not getting the best out of it due to sharp practices on the part of the HMOs and health providers.
The government official said, “But barely one year into his assumption of office was Prof. Usman suspended by the Minister of Health on the strength of a petition by the United Youth Alliance Against Corruption and Association of Senior Civil Servants.
“The minister, relying on the petition, constituted a 17-man committee under the headship of the Permanent Secretary of the ministry to look into the petition by this body of civil servants.
“Out of the 17 members of the committee, 16 of them were staff of the ministry while one member was from the Department of State Services.
“The request for a nomination from the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission was declined because they feared a conflict of interest.
“From the composition of the committee, it was obvious that the committee was neither independent nor free from bias.
“Some of the allegations brought against the Executive Secretary by the UYAC could not be substantiated in 20 of the 23 allegations as no evidence was brought forward. Others were obviously concocted as there were evident alterations and mix-ups in dates on some of the petitions.”
The source added that in his bid to strengthen the weaknesses identified in the execution of the insurance scheme and in the procurement processes, Usman got competent staff seconded to him from relevant organisations in the short run while a comprehensive long term staff replacement was being worked on.
These efforts, he claimed, were eventually thwarted and the officers thereby de-seconded in deference to public service bureaucratic norms as advised by the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
“As part of the N919, 000,000 alleged to have been mismanaged by the ES, it is on record that N411, 688, 704 was paid to NHIS staff as allowances and also to seconded staff as allowances and entitlements when he resumed,” the source said.
“Payments to the consultants mentioned in the petition went through normal procurement protocol established in the organisation before approval by the Executive Secretary subject to ratification of the Executive Management of the organisation.
“Records within the organisation show that not one NHIS contracts was subjected to Bureau of Public Procurement review within the 2013-2017 period and it was in a view to addressing these anomalies that NHIS wrote to the BPP and other similar organisations to strengthen the procurement functions of the organisation.
“It is not unlikely that there are some individuals or groups who are very comfortable with the old order of doing things that are hiding behind the petition writers,” he added.
The source said it was clear from the investigation that the Presidency identified an acute lack of capacity in the NHIS as organisation and unless a new set of competent managers are found and recruited, the objectives of setting up of the NHIS may remain a mirage.
“This is why the minister was directed to work with the Executive Secretary to redress some of the identified shortcomings within the organisations to avoid a breakdown of one of the Federal Government’s flagship programmes and truncate the intention of government to expand the scope of beneficiaries of health insurance scheme and indeed broaden government’s efforts in repositioning the health sector,” he said.
The government official added that the House of Representatives Committee on Health and the entire House reached more or less the same conclusion and asked for the reinstatement of the NHIS boss.
In recalling how Yusuf was appointed, the source said, “Prof. Usman Yusuf was appointed on August 1, 2016 to inject fresh life into the operations of the NHIS after the removal of the erstwhile Chief Executive officer of the organisation.
“It is common knowledge that the Executive Secretary of the NHIS took over the organisation following his appointment along with heads of similar organisations in the health department of government.
“It is also well documented that most of the agencies in the health sector were facing credibility issues which were threatening continued assistance from donor partners that the health sector really relied on from time to time.
“It was well reported that that foreign donor partners were threatening to stop funding of critical projects in the country due to lack of transparency, poor administration and gross incompetence.
“The fact is that it was against this background that President Buhari made the appointment and the ES immediately set to work with a team that he could work with to remedy the situation on the ground.”