FG orders NHIS boss to proceed on immediate administrative leave

FG orders NHIS boss to proceed on immediate administrative leave

Prof. Yusuf

ABUJA President Muhammadu Buhari, Wednesday, directed embattled Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Yusuf Usman, to proceed on “administrative leave” with immediate effect.

The President also empanelled a seven-man committee to investigate allegations of infractions by the executive secretary and submit its report within two weeks.

Mr. Ben Omogo, a Director of Administration in the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation has been deployed to oversee the affairs of the scheme in the interim.

The pronouncements followed continued protest by workers of the scheme, after the executive secretary refused to comply with the suspension placed on him by the governing council of the scheme to allow for probe into his alleged ‘infractions’ at the organization.

The declaration made available to our correspondent by office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was received with wild jubilation by the protesting staff. But, those loyal to him were sad with the pronouncement.

The statement was signed by Olusegun A. Adekunle, Permanent Secretary (General Services Office) on behalf of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had on Monday said governing boards/councils lacked powers to suspend or sack chief executive officers of organizations under their watch, but the president who appointed them.

Employees of NHIS have operated in two rival blocs since Prof. Yusuf’s travails began in 2017.

He had been accused of mismanaging 919 million naira and was subsequently suspended by Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who set up a committee to probe him. The panel found him guilty and made recommendations accordingly.

But, president Buhari who was outside the country, receiving treatment at the time the developments unfolded, reinstated him shortly after returning to the country. The action was greeted with knocks from most Nigerians.

Nigeria health insurance scheme became operational in 2005 under the leadership of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but till date it has failed to provide cover to five percent of the nation’s population.

Failure of the scheme to function has been responsible for abysmal health performance and indices in the nation.

Governing of the scheme, through its chairperson, Dr Enyantu Ifenne, suspended the executive secretary on Thursday 18th October over alleged fraud, insurbonation, criminal breach of Procurement Act, self-aggrandizement, arbitrariness among other offences.
Yusuf had remained in office, claiming the council lacked powers to suspend him. He has often defeated protesting workers at the gate of the Scheme’s headquarters who tried to prevent him from entering with the help of arm-wielding police officers.
Part of the president’s orders read on Wednesday: “The Federal Government has found it necessary to restate that the objective for establishing parastatals is in fulfilment of the need to deliver services to Nigerians faster and better. It has also considered it necessary to restate that the roles of Governing Boards/Councils, are as prescribed by the statutes, guidelines and extant circulars and that the position of chief executives of parastatals is to ensure that policies of government as enunciated by boards and councils are implemented in accordance with their mandate.

“It has however observed with deep concern the growing tension between boards and chief executives and their attendant implications for governance. For the avoidance of doubt, government will neither tolerate acts of indiscipline from any appointee nor will it habour any acts of corruption. Government will however ensure that due process is followed strictly in trying to maintain discipline and probity in public service.

“With specific reference to recent developments at the National Health Insurance Scheme, Mr. President has, after due consideration, approved the establishment of an independent fact-finding panel to investigate the alleged infractions by the executive secretary and report back within two weeks.”

Members of the panel include: Dr. Hassan Bukar, Chairman; Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, member; Director, HPRS, FMH; Mr. Adewale Owolo, member, Director, Audit, (AuGF); Mr. Shamsuddeen Bello, member; Deputy Director, Expenditure (OAGF).

Others are: Mr. Ishaq Yahaya, member, Director, Certification & Compliance,
BPP; Dr. Ekanem John Udoh, Director of Science (FMS&T), member; and Mrs. Jummai Idakwo, member/Secretary, Director, Administration (OSGF)

Terms of reference of the panel are: to investigate the alleged infractions listed by the NHIS governing council in letter dated 18th October, 2018 and determine the extent of culpability or otherwise of the executive secretary with regards to the allegations; to make appropriate recommendations based on the findings from TOR I above; to identify, investigate and make recommendations with regards to issues that led to the unhealthy relationship between the board and the CEO.

It will also investigate and make recommendations on the extent of involvement of staff unions’ within the institution as to the current impasse between the governing board and executive secretary; and examine all governance challenges in the NHIS and make appropriate recommendations.

“The panel which is headed by a retired permanent secretary will be inaugurated by the SGF on Friday, 2nd November, 2018 at 3.00p.m. in the conference room of the OSGF. With the establishment of this panel, the earlier body set up by the governing council stands dissolved.

“In order to create room for an unfettered investigation, Mr. President has approved that the executive secretary of the NHIS, Prof. Usman Yusuf, should proceed on administrative leave immediately. In his absence, Mr. Ben Omogo, a Director of Administration in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation has been deployed to oversee the affairs of the scheme.

“Government recognizes the importance of the scheme as a strong mechanism for the delivery of public healthcare and wishes to re-assure all Nigerians of its determination to place high premium on public interest,” the president added.

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