Shocking revelations have emerged on how the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr. Usman Yusuf, defrauded the organisation of several millions of naira before the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, struck.
Prof. Adewole suspended Yusuf and subsequently set up a committee to investigate his activities at the NHIS especially allegations of financial misconduct levelled against him.
An indepth investigation and the report of the committee which probed his tenure, showed that Yusuf was involved in series of illegalities and corruption-related matters while he was in office.
For instance, the report of the Ministerial Committee which has been presented to President Muhammadu Buhari, revealed that all the foreign trips which Yusuf had made and collected estacode and per diem running into millions naira for, were not approved by the minister.
The committee indicted the management of the NHIS and the Governing Council of running a regime of estacode and per diem that violated extant financial regulations.
Part of the report showed that the Chairman, NHIS Governing Council and Executive Secretary/CEO were paid $900 estacode and N50,000 per diem, while Council members received $750 estacode and N40,000 per diem.
On the other hand, NHIS members of staff from salary grade level 13 to 15 received $750 estacode and N32,000 per diem; staff on level 6 to 12 received $600 as estacode and N24,000 per diem, while staff from grade level 3 to 5 got $350 estacode and N10,000 per diem.
The committee said: “There was no evidence of approval of the Minister of Health for all the foreign trips embarked upon by the suspended ES and some staff of the Scheme. This contravenes the provision of circular Ref: HCSF/CSO/HRM/Pol.1402/1, dated January 22, 2015, from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation.”
In its recommendation, the committee stated that because of the critical role of the NHIS in the country’s health sector, the Federal Government should urgently undertake a “comprehensive staff audit and streamline the bureaucratic set up of the scheme; the management of NHIS should be made to recover the 13th month salary paid up-front to seconded staff; the three months’ salary paid after the cancellation of the secondment (April, May and June), and that funds paid to four seconded officers for the aborted Oracle training in The Netherlands.”
The committee further observed that “on the allegation of the award of N28 million for e-library equipment to Promatrix Resources Ltd, payments made before the job was executed and the purchase of project vehicle exceeding the appropriated amount, there was a provision of the sum of N35.50million for the procurement of e-library books and periodicals and the sum of N35.196million for the procurement of project vehicle in the 2016 NHIS capital appropriation.
“There was no evidence of composition of Procurement Planning Committee (PPC), Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) and Procurement Plan Committee for this procurement and the process was characterised with irregularities, violating Section 21 of PPA 2007.”
On the award of contract to cronies and relations, the documents revealed that a N46.7miilion media consultancy was awarded to a company owned by Yusuf’s relation.
Surprisingly, the contract, which did not pass due process was approved by a seconded staff of the NHIS, whose father shockingly owned the firm.
The company, Lubekh Nigeria Limited, has its corporate office in Katsina. It was discovered that it has no media background nor ever handled any media-related job.
The money for the contract had since been allegedly paid. The letter of the award of the contract was dated April 3, 2017.
Further findings revealed that most of the local and foreign trips, which Yusuf collected money for were not attended by him as he did no retire the funds to show that he embarked on them.
The tradition in the public sector is for officers to produce evidence, such as receipts and air tickets, to show that the trips were made.
For instance, on February 20, 2017, Yusuf received the sum of N5.196 million for a Health Insurance Conference in Prague, Czeh Republic, but did not attend as the money was not retired. There were proofs that the approving authorities endorsed the trip and the money was paid to him.
The conference which drew speakers from health insurance industry specifically and the risk management generally, was intended to enable attendees to participate, interact, and engage senior level professionals from reputable organisations across the globe.
It was to expose the participants to new ways of handling health insurance and health issues, drawing from global best practices.
Yusuf collected the money but failed to attend the conference.
Also, on January 30, 2017, Yusuf was paid N3. 586 million to travel to Washington DC to attend a workshop organised by the World Bank.
The objective of the workshop was to use evidence from health sector impact evaluation in Nigeria to stimulate a discussion on the implications for on-going and future health policy and prospect, with a view to reaching a broad World Bank and development partner audience.
The money was paid, but there was no evidence that he equally attended the event.
Similarly, between January 22 and 23 this year, the suspended ES was billed to attend the African Executive Summit in Dubai, the sum of N3.699million was approved and paid. However, he did not attend it and no evidence to support he went there.
A cursory look at the documents indicated that Yusuf collected N4.046 million with the intention of attending the annual meeting of ID4AFrica Movement between April 26 and 28, 2017, at Windhoek, Namibia, but did attend after collecting the money.
On local trips, the document indicated that he collected N650,000 to attend the verification exercise on payment of capitation and fee-for-service under the formal sector programme for January to December 2016, southern geographical zones, but did not also attend.
On the May 25, 2017, he collected N650,000 for a similar event in the South-South zone, N 550,000 for North Central, and N1.1miilion for North West, but did not attend any of them.
The documents further showed that on August 26, 2016, “a voucher was raised for the payment of N2.962 million being payment to Yusuf and one other as per diem, local running, air fare and airport taxi in respect of verification exercise on payment of capitation and FFS under formal sector for national coordinator and zonal coordinators.” This also, he did not attend.