The Governing Council of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has released a list of infractions that eventually prompted Thursday’s indefinite suspension of the embattled Executive Secretary of the Scheme, Usman Yusuf.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the official was suspended again amidst jubilation at the Abuja office of the scheme. He had been suspended earlier in the year by the health minister but was reinstated by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Yusuf, 54, took over the state-run health insurance provider on July 29, 2016 but his reign at the agency has been bedevilled by controversies. Workers said he ran the NHIS with an ‘iron fist’ for the two and a half years he has held sway at the saddle. They described his latest suspension as a “breakthrough.”
While announcing his suspension to journalists on Thursday, Enyantu Ifenne, the chairperson of the governing council, said several executive infractions that “we can not ignore” had been observed, noting that the council resolved to suspend Mr Yusuf because it was inundated with petitions and infractions against him in the past six months.
Beyond the infractions listed below, the council noted streams of petitions against this official which emanated mainly from management staff, unions and civil societies. The petitions allege procurement violations, financial mismanagement, executive high handedness, conflict driven management style, total disregard of professional advice by management staff, militarisation of work environment, inciting staff against council and wilful appropriation of NHIS property and others.
Here are nine infractions listed against Mr Yusuf by the Governing Council
1) 2018 Budget Crisis
At the Inauguration of the council in March 2018, NHIS had no approved budget for its activities for 2018. Therefore, council underscored passing the 2018 Budget as priority. Unfortunately, management of the scheme seemed unmindful of the financial and operational risks and consequences of running a public entity without approved budget. Sadly, ten months into the financial year, the scheme has no approved budget.
To arrest the drift and expedite progress, the finance committee and council held five meetings, dedicated to the budget culminating in a resolution on 24th July 2018 which directed the Executive Secretary (ES) to amend, reflecting final council positions and represent for Chairman’s signature to avoid further delay.
Some highlights of the required amendments include the following;
a) Removal of the N264 million padding discovered in the budget proposal.
b) Reduction of the 2018 training budget from N1billion to a realistic N250 million to avoid the training stampede in 2017 when N919, 664, 800 was spent, in just three months, without needs assessment and departmental; training plans.
c) Removal of the N100 million posting and transfer provision since the council had adopted an early policy that transfers/postings shall be contingent upon outcome of comprehensive staff audit to enable the scheme align transfers and postings with needs, structure, skills and organization strategy.
D) Removal of the frivolous provision of N50 million for an additional SUV for the ES considering that one was acquired for him only last year.
However, after many reminders through council members, the ES forwarded the budget documents on the 6th August, 2018 without the amendments as directed. The Chairman subsequently, returned the budget documents to weeks later with detailed analysis. Significantly, till date there has been no response, compliance nor correspondence on the matter whatsoever from the ES despite written reminders sent to him by the Chairman.
2) Fraudulent Inflation Of The Cost Of Bio-metric Capturing Machines
The 2018 Budget Proposal submitted by the ES included the procurement of biometric capturing machines at a unit cost of N11, 500, 000.00 whereas the market cost is only between N700, 000.00 and N1, 4million depending on specifications. When council finance committee requested for more information and vendor presentation to justify the astronomical cost, the ES blatantly refused to oblige. It is significant that the ICT project cost escalated, without justification, by 42% from N7, 783, 185, 805.37 in 2015 to N18, 864, 674, 612.85v in 2016 and N14. 975, 032, 572.30 in 2018. Unfortunately, the ICT project which should significantly improve operational efficiency and service delivery is stalled because Executive Secretary denied council critical information requited for decision making on the project.
3) Attempt to illegally Execute N30 Billion Investment in FGN Bonds:
The ES submitted memos to council on 27th March and 25th April, 2018 requesting approval to invest N30billion residual funds. While the memoranda referenced ministerial approval for the investment dated 18th August 2017, it failed to disclose ministerial memo dated 29th August 2017 which withdrew the earlier approval stating that investment would violate the prevailing Presidential order on operating TSA.
If the ES had succeeded in misleading the council to approve this investment, the scheme would have violated the presidential order on the operations of the TSA. In addition, the attempt by the ES to execute the N30 billion FGN bonds Investment through a private company instead of directly through the CBN, would have resulted in the scheme incurring investment arbitrage costs of between N600million to N1.2 billion which would have accrued to the private company.. Consequently, on account of the wilful failure to fully disclose critical information, council stayed action on the investment.
4) Unlawful Staff Postings And Wilful Defiance of Council Directive
Organization execute staff transfers and postings to match skills with needs and also align skills with organizational structure and strategy. Therefore Council directed management on 7th May, 2018 to conduct management review and comprehensive staff audit to maximize organizational benefits from staff postings and transfers.
Furthermore, to stabilize the management cadre, strengthen institutional memory and create proactive, consistent, confident professional insulated from unpredictable political appointees, Council resolved that, henceforth the authority to appoint, post and discipline staff of the directorate cadre shall reside with council in accordance with provision of the NHIS Act. No 35, 1999 section 8 (4a).
However, on 3rd October, the ES conducted massive postings and transfers of over 85 staff, in defiance of council resolutions. Furthermore, there is no reason, rhyme or rationale for postings.
First, the postings are arbitrary and, in some cases, punitive. For example, the GM procurement was posted to a zonal office and replaced by another GM who has no experiences of procurement. Also with postings, another GM, with no accounting or IT management experiences was posted as GM Contribution Management.
Secondly, the financial cost to the scheme, N48million in staff relocation allowances is not approved in the 2018 budget because council stepped down the N100 million proposed for postings.
Finally, the strategic and operational benefits of the postings are negligible and a colossal waste, particularly in the context of the gross deficit 2018 budget proposed by the ES. Sadly, the postings and the stampede to pay allowances without budget approval, two days before this council meeting, constitute a defiant, proactive and insubordinate act by ES and underscore the prevalent fiscal and management recklessness.
It is on record that the ES signed the minutes of the meeting of 7th May 2018 and the extract therefrom which established council resolutions on general postings and specifically, postings of directorate cadre staff as NHIS policy.
5) Wilful Refusal to Implement Council Directive on the Disbanding of Illegal Union
The ES refused to implement council resolution directing a local chapter of the Nigeria Civil Service Union in NHIS from operating in NHIS as a parallel staff union within the scheme. Contrary to assurances to council that the resolution had been implemented, the said union continues to operate, and generate tension with active support of the ES. His current defense for this act of defiance is that his lawyers, not NHIS legal department advised him to ignore council resolution on the matter.
6) Unauthorized Staff Travel In Defiance of Council Directive
In May 2018, ES requested for approval to travel to Geneva for himself and four other staff, including his personal assistant. Approval was granted for him but denied for the other four. However, he traveled with the four staff in defiance of the council directive. This unauthorized entourage arrived in Geneva just one day before the conference closed. This trip cost NHIS the sum of N17million which exceeds limit of N2.5million. He failed to justify his action in this regard, when council demanded one.
7) Superfluous Arrogation of Project Vehicles
The ES remains insensitive to the consequences of the gross budget deficit operated by scheme and continues to aggregate non-essential spending. For example, he arrogated seven project vehicles to himself. Three of these cars are for the office and four are located in his house. Also, one vehicle is allocated to his personal assistant who is not entitled to a vehicle. Besides, he is paid N500 thousand fuel allowance monthly for seven project vehicles to himself in the face of critical transportation challenges in states and zonal offices. The 2018 budget proposes additional N50million to procure another Toyota land cruiser for the ES. He has defiantly presented this item in the final draft against council directive. At the last council meeting the evidence submitted by Union petition was presented, he insisted the pool of vehicles were his entitlements as CEO. He then stormed out of the meeting.
8) Insubordinate Conduct by the ES
Council members, in particular the chairman, have been subjected to verbal assaults, unruly outbursts and various forms of unprofessional behavior by the ES, These include not limited but habitual lateness to council meetings. Some examples eloquently make our case here:
24th July, 2018 the ES arrived one hour late to the emergency budget review meeting holding next door to his office and offered no apology to council.
In August 2018, he unilaterally cancelled scheduled council meeting, rescheduled it and issued meeting notice to members without reference to chairman.
On October 17th, he sauntered to the meeting 35 minutes late, without apology, and demanded that his agenda, assembled without consultation, be accepted as the operated agenda for the meeting.
Explicit and wilful refusal to implement many council decision.
9) Failure to provide leadership for development of the strategic plan for the Agency despite Council’s Directives
As it stands, 13 years after establishment NHIS does not have a strategic plan. In March, 2018, Council directed management to work with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive 10 year strategic plan.
He argues that the strategic plan, management review and the staff audit are not his priority and is unable to appreciate the urgency and the significance of these critical management tools to reposition NHIS to achieve its mandate.