Alleged fraud at NHIS: Health Ministry warns agencies against flouting spending limits

Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole

The Ministry of Health has warned heads of health agencies and parastatals of sanctions against flouting their statutory expenditure limits and spending without due approval.

The permanent secretary of the Ministry, Clement Uwaifo, gave the warning through a circular he issued on Monday to all the units and parastals of the ministry.

The circular was issued a day after Daily Trust reported some curious payments made by the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, to its acting Executive Secretary and some officials.

According to the report, the acting Executive Secretary of the agency, Attahiru Ibrahim, and five other senior officials collected N30.6 million as travelling allowances for a training in the United States they did not attend.

The agency was also reported to have paid N9.4 million as sitting allowance for a committee work that lasted only eight days.

In the circular dated November 6, Mr. Uwaifo warned officials of the ministry and its agencies to desist from spending above their approval limits, stressing that doing so contravenes the rules and regulation of their offices.

The Bureau of Public Procurement Act 2017 stipulates treasury limits for public office holders and political appointees, but some officials have been reported to be violating the stipulation.

Mr. Uwaifo also warned heads of health agencies and parastatals to stop approving unauthorised expenditure and travels without obtaining clearance from the ministry.

The circular by Mr. Uwaifo, titled “Unauthorised Expenditure and Travels” was directed to all Chief Medical Directors, all Medical Directors, and all Chief Executive Officers of Parastatals/ agencies under the ministry.

The Permanent Secretary noted in the circular that it had come to his attention that some heads of parastatals/agencies were in the habit of approving expenditure beyond their statutory limits in contravention of extant regulations/practices.

He described the trend as “reprehensible, unacceptable and capable of casting negative aspersions on the affected parastatal/Agencies as well as the ministry.”

Mr. Uwaifo emphasised that on no account should any head of parastatal/agency grant approval to expenditure statutorily above their approval limits.

“It should be noted that the foregoing also should include procurement processes and any infraction of this directive will be met with swift reprimand and appropriate sanctions.

“Head of parastatals/Agencies were also mandated to obtain appropriate approval from Ministry before embarking on tours/travels as it has been observed that the established practsce is being flouted with impunity,” he said.

The former NHIS boss, Usman Yusuf, was earlier this year suspended from office for alleged financial malpractice.

Mr. Yusuf was initially suspended by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, for three months in July, based on allegation of fraud and nepotism. The minister then set up a committee to investigate the allegations against Mr. Yusuf.

The findings of the panel had found Mr. Yusuf “culpable in many areas” of his performance, leading to extension of his suspension from office, pending decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to whom the report was forwarded.

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