The resolve of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Usman Yusuf to re-accredit the Health Management Organizations(HMOs) and ensure the implementation of a security report which mandated the ES to recover the sum of N1.05 billion allegedly embezzled by some HMOs may have pitched him against the Chairman of the NHIS Council, Dr. Enyantu Ifenne, this newspaper has learnt.
The executive secretary was last Thursday reportedly suspended indefinitely on the order of the council chairman ostensibly to allow unfettered investigation into a petition said to have been written against him some staff of the NHIS.
In a letter signed by its Chairman, Dr Eyantu Ifenne, the Council said “in line with the public service rule 030406, has resolved to suspend you, Professor Usman Yusuf, indefinitely with effect from 18th October 2018 to allow for a comprehensive and unfettered investigation of the issues in the petitions against you.”
However, staff of the organization kicked against the suspension claiming it was a unilateral decision by the chairman as seven out of the 11 council members reportedly walked out of the meeting. A senior Director of the organization instructed to take over from the ES in acting capacity also reportedly declined the offer in solidarity with staff.
In his response to the letter of suspension, Prof. Yusuf stated that contrary to the claims of the council that the NHIS Act and the Public Service Rules no.030406 conferred on it the power to suspend the executive secretary, it had no such powers, stressing that only the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria could order the suspension or removal of the ES.
Insiders with knowledge of the in-fighting in the NHIS explained that there was no love lost between the chairman of the council and the executive for reasons many of the staff consider as self-serving.
The most obvious reason, according to sources, is an alleged collusion between the chairman and HMOs which has considerably weakened the scheme but benefitted the HMOs. Since resuming as ES in 2016, Prof. Yusuf had indicated interest to sanitize the scheme and stop an alleged racket which had ensured that HMOs to NHIS funds for as long as they liked without paying hospitals offering service to enrollees in the scheme.
An internal audit carried out by the ES had also revealed a staggering number of ghost enrollees and hospitals while the HMOs continued to receive huge illegal payments. The Department of State Services (DSS) had also investigated the Scheme from 2013-2015, and one of the recommendations in its report is that HMOs should pay back the sum of N1.05b that they were illegally paid in 2015.
But it was learnt that even though the ES sought and got the council approval to recover NHIS funds and re-accredit the HMOs, the Chairman never supported the move. The Chairman reportedly called a Council meeting one week after the go-ahead was given and asked a representative of the HMOs to address them on why they should not pay back the money.
“The meeting was attended by only four of the 11 council members, and after the presentation the Chairman asked the HMOs not to pay back any money to NHIS,” a senior staff explained. On several occasions, the Chairman had also allegedly circulated council meetings among certain HMOs, an action that was frowned upon by the ES who warned against given undue access and advantage to some HMOs above others at a time they were being accredited.