Health ministry: Corruption allegation rocks NHIS, NPHCDA
There is brewing tension at the Federal Ministry of Health, following alleged disregard of Public Service Rules and Government directives by some of the newly appointed Chief Executive Officers.
Some of the newly appointed CEOs have undertaken wholesale promotion and demotion of staff in their establishments, in open violations of existing public service rules and disrespect to their parent Ministry and the Minister of Health.
The source alleged that, the CEOs of both the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), had been corruptly removing duly appointed General Managers (in the case of the NHIS) and Directors in the case of the NPHCDA, from Headship of Departments and replacing them with junior officers, contrary to public service rules and tenure policy of the federal government, as it relates to Directors and Permanent Secretaries.
Investigation of the situation in the Ministry of Health, the NHIS and NPHCDA indicated that the officers affected had not been indicted of any misconduct.
“The actions of these new chief executives have created institutional confusion and in-fighting within the Agencies at a time when the ministry and its parastatals are expected to be busy working on how to implement President Buhari’s Change Agenda”, a source at the Ministry told this reporter.
Staff morale is also reported to be low in both Agencies and the Ministry, because of apparent reluctance or helplessness of the Minister to reprimand those involved in the unwholesome act.
According to the source, “the impunity with which the new Chief Executives carried out their initial activities had begun to erode donor confidence in the capacity of the Ministry of Health to carry out its mandate,” adding this may lead to ultimate withdrawal of international technical and financial support.
There are concerns over the reluctance of the Minister of Health to effectively supervise these new chief executives.
Also, some members of the National Assembly are said to be furious over the ongoing development, adding that they did not campaign for the emergence of the APC under President Buhari, only for some individuals to give the government a bad name.
A member of the Health Committee of the Senate (name withheld), stated that the Senate had been inundated with petitions drawing attention to the high-handedness of many chief executives in the Federal Ministry of Health, wondering why the ministry had been unable to resolve an otherwise serious problem of indiscipline by those chief executives.
There are indications that the Senate may soon initiate investigations into the sordid situation in the ministry.
Also at the House of Representatives, members had unanimously agreed to investigate corrupt practices at the NHIS, with a resolution to amend the act establishing it.
At the just concluded 2-day public hearing, Chairman, House Committee on Health Services, Hon. Chike Okafor, said, “what was conceived to make healthcare affordable and accessible to workers has been transformed to a conduit pipe by some persons and organisations to enrich individuals and organisations”.
The lawmakers also contemplated suspending the scheme, to redirect it amend the act, to reflect its original goal.
In the meantime, Trade Union Organisations within the Agencies are poised for war over the alleged apparent recklessness of the management of both the NPHCDA and the NHIS.
Barring any last-minute reversal of the actions of the management of the two organisations, leaders of the Unions are said to have resolved to forward petitions to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC), to probe the matter.
They alleged that the chief executives must have been acting in collusion with the Minister.
When contacted for reaction, the head of Public Relations at NPHCDA, Saidu Salahu, dismissed the allegation, saying it was unfounded.
He said the new Executive Director was only repositioning the organisation in line with the mandate given to him by the President, for efficiency and meeting the needs of Nigerians.
“The story is unfounded; the ED only upgraded Zonal Coordinators of the Agency to Zonal Directors and three Directors were moved out of the headquarters to head three of the six zones in the country.
“It is only upgrade that happened and the movement does not affect seniority in NPHCDA and not a demotion as alleged by your source,” the spokesman said.
He added that the development at the Agency did not contravene the public service rules.
Also, reacting to the allegation, the Director of Press in the Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs Aboade Akinola, feigned ignorance of the development, but requested time to get clarifications.
“I am not aware of such, so I need to get a brief from my Principal. I will talk to the relevant officers and let you have my findings. As soon as the Hon Minister returns, I will brief him also”, she said.
Efforts to get officials of NHIS to speak on the matter proved abortive as officials were unwilling to speak to the press on the matter.