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REVEALED: NHIS paid ES, 5 officials N30.6m for foreign course not attended

The acting Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Attahiru A. Ibrahim and five other senior staff collected N30.6 million travelling allowances for a training in the United States which they didn’t attend, Daily Trust on Sunday investigations have shown.

This is coming at a time the scheme also paid N9.4 million as sitting allowance for a committee work that lasted only eight days.

The NHIS has been embroiled in leadership tussle between the Minister of Health Professor Isaac Adewole and its executive secretary Professor Usman Yusuf.

The minister set up an investigative committee to probe Professor Yusuf, who was controversially suspended on July 6 over allegations of N960million fraud, which he has denied.

Analysis of official correspondences between the health ministry and the NHIS revealed that Professor Yusuf was actually suspended for his refusal to grant the ministry’s dozens of requests for sponsorship of its officials to foreign events, execution of phoney contracts, chartering of aircraft for the minister, all running into hundreds of millions of naira, among others.

The 21 members of the ministerial panel set up to probe the suspended executive secretary were paid N19,184,000 from the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of the NHIS on September 14, 2017, as sitting allowance for its three weeks work,  according to official documents analysed by Daily Trust on Sunday.

N30.6m for course not attended

Apart from the acting executive secretary, other officials who collected the money for the unattended trip are Egwu Emmanuel Adikwu (General Manager, Finance), Dr Emmanuel I. Ohuakanwa (General Manager, Formal Sector), Issa Salau Ataiza (Chief of Staff to acting ES office), Mohammed Ahmad Gana (Personal Assistant to acting ES), and Oche David Ojochenemi (Protocol to acting ES).

The money was paid purportedly to attend the Global Flagship Course on Health Systems Strengthening and Sustainable Financing: The Challenge of Universal Coverage, organised by the World Bank in Washington DC, United States from October 21-31, 2017.

But Daily Trust on Sunday investigations have shown that despite pocketing the money, none of the six officials attended the programme.

Official documents analysed by this newspaper revealed that the officials were paid in August 2017 through the scheme’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) with reference number 177673938.

Breakdown of the payment shows that Attahiru collected a total of N6, 492, 400, comprising N5,234,800 for 10 days estacode and N1,241,600 as course fee. The GM finance Adikwu, GM formal sector Ohuakanwa and Chief of Staff Ataiza each got N5, 330, 000 for the unattended course, comprising N4,072,400 as estacode and N1,241,600 course fee, according to the TSA document.

While the acting executive secretary’s personal assistant, Gana, was paid N4, 689, 000, comprising N3,410,000 as estacode and N1,241,000 course fee. The acting executive secretary’s protocol officer, Ojochenemi, according to the NHIS official document, was paid N3,410,000 as estacode and N64,000 course fee, totaling N3.374,000.

The spokesperson of NHIS Ayo Osinlu confirmed that the senior officials were paid the money and they couldn’t attend the programme because they were “late for admission,” in a written response to Daily Trust on Sunday.

Osinlu said, “the team from the Scheme for the Global Flagship Course in Washington couldn’t attend the October edition of the course because they were late for the admission for this edition.

“They have however been now duly admitted, and are properly scheduled to be part of the February 2018 class of the course.”

He, however, said they would attend the same course by February next year. But inside sources told this newspaper that the World Bank programme is an annual event holds every October.

Osinlu said, “the team from the Scheme for the Global Flagship Course in Washington couldn’t attend the October edition of the course because they were late for the admission for this edition.

“They have however been now duly admitted, and are properly scheduled to be part of the February 2018 class of the course.”

Another source said, “NHIS knows that a candidate can only attend this course upon securing a space in the programme, yet they went ahead to pay these people 10 days estacode and other allowances knowing full well  that they were not admitted to the programme.”


N9.4m for 8-day sitting allowance

Another financial scandal in the scheme was the payment of N9.4 million to a committee set up by Minister of Health on April 6, 2017 through a letter with a reference number C/4501/T/83.

The committee’s terms of reference was to look into the stagnation of promotion of some staff of the NHIS.

The 15-member committee comprised five members from the ministry, five from the NHIS and five as secretariat staff of the ministry.

Daily Trust on Sunday investigation revealed that the committee sat in the boardroom of the NHIS from 9am to 4pm for eight days and that they were given breakfast and lunch throughout the duration.

A staff of the NHIS who declined being named for fear of victimization said, “at the end of their sitting, Professor Yusuf was presented with a bill of N10million as sitting allowance. But he (Professor Yusuf) wrote the Minister of Health, stating why he could not approve this payment citing Public Service Regulation.”

Official documents reviewed by this newspaper revealed that as soon as the minister suspended Professor Yusuf, the acting NHIS executive secretary paid the money even though his approval limit was for only N2.5 million.

The TSA document analysed by Daily Trust on Sunday show each of the two co-chairmen of the committee was paid N100,000 daily, making it N800,000 each for the eight days’ work.

The co-chairmen of the committee are Haladu M. Keana and Lawal Tinau.

The remaining 13 members of the committee, including the secretariat staff were paid N75,000 daily each, totaling N600, 000 each for the eight days’ work.

Among the members of the committee are Comrade Omomeji A. Razaq, Chairman of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) and Comrade Olawuyi Y. Kayode, Chairman of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN).

Other members are Mrs. Laurat E. Elayo, Mrs. V.E Jemide, Mr. E.E Ebri, Mrs. P. A. Ogbaudu, Mr. Peter Uzoue, Mr. Sani Abdullahi, Hajia Fadimatu Bello, Mrs. Ale Oluwayomi Lucia, Ms Maryam N. Aliyu, Mrs. Tobias T. Christiana, and  Kabiru Salisu.

Another source inside the scheme said “the committee was created to compensate loyal staff. That is why union leaders who have been writing petitions against the former executive secretary were enlisted to benefit from the largesse.”

Payments within the law – NHIS

The head media and public relation department of the NHIS, Osinlu, in a written response to Daily Trust on Sunday, said, “The committee on Staff Stagnation was a Ministerial Committee that was set up with elaborate input from suspended ES (executive secretary), Usman Yusuf, to look into the cases of some staff who were set back in their promotion and seniority prospects in the scheme, with a view to correct the imbalance and unfairness.

“Members of the committee were paid their allowances in accordance with extant circular in that regard.

“The Committee actually sat for 12 days and requested to be paid accordingly,” he said.

He said, “the acting Executive Secretary, Attahiru Ibrahim, scaled it down to eight days in strict adherence to the guiding circular that stipulated a maximum of eight sittings for such committees.

“Thereafter, the allowances were paid following due and competent approval

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