SENATE Committee on Health, yesterday, began investigation into the alleged illegal recruitment and lopsided appointments of some management staff of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS. It said it would also investigate the scheme’s expenditure on trainings and travels of its staff. Management of the NHIS led by the Executive Secretary, Mr. Usman Yusuf, stated that the new recruits were on ‘secondment’ and not on appointment. When asked if the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who was present at the hearing, was aware of the ‘secondments’, the executive secretary said, “No, he is not aware.” The lawmakers asked why N150 million was spent by NHIS on trainings and travels between January and June, while the amount spent for the same purpose in July, August and September was between N2 million and N4 million, but the sum of N412 million was spent in October alone. The committee also said it had received a petition against the NHIS in which it was alleged that while the number of general managers had been raised from 23 to 25, their appointments were not in line with federal character principles. Members of the panel, who declined to name the petitioner and provide a copy of the petition to Yusuf, said it had been alleged that the North- Central geopolitical zone which had three representatives now had five, while the North-East which had three, now has four. The North-West was raised from six to nine; South-East remained three; South-South dropped from four to three; and the South-West reduced from four to one. Yusuf, however, said “It will be for the sake of fair hearing that I get a copy of the petition before I respond to the allegation. I am not aware of any petition and I can only respond to what I can see and read. I need to know what is in the petition and where it is coming from.” The Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Olanrewaju Tejuoso, said Yusuf should be able to state if the statistics are correct or not without seeing the petition. The executive secretary, however, insisted on seeing the petition before confirming or refuting the allegation. “I need fair hearing; I need to see a copy of that petition,” he said. The request for seeing a copy of the petition before responding to the allegation was declined. The lawmakers noted that since the allegation was against the NHIS and the person of Yusuf, they are not obliged to give out a copy to him. Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, who is a member of the committee, said the lawmakers would confirm the allegation when it goes through the nominal roll of the scheme. The lawmaker, however, said NHIS failed to provide its nominal roll, which was the first information requested from it. Members of the committee, who expressed displeasure with the failure to provide all the information requested from the management of the NHIS, said the leadership would reappear before the panel to verify claims by the petitioner. Yusuf, who was asked when all the data requested would be presented to the committee, said they would be made available by Monday.
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