BREAKING: NHIS ES sent on compulsory leave as FG probes corruption allegations

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The federal government has set up a panel to probe the allegations levelled against Usman Yusuf, executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

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Olusegun Adekunle, permanent secretary (general services office) for the secretary to the government of the federation, announced this in a statement on Wednesday.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari had approved that Yusuf proceeds on leave immediately in order to allow the panel carry out its task without interference.

Ben Omogo, a director in the office of the head of the civil service of the federation, has been deployed to oversee the affairs of the scheme in Yusuf’s absence.

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“The federal government has observed with deep concern the growing tension between boards and chief executives and their attendant implications for governance,” the statement read.

“For the avoidance of doubt, government will neither tolerate acts of indiscipline from any appointee nor will it habour any acts of corruption. Government will however ensure that due process is followed strictly in trying to maintain discipline and probity in public service.

“With specific reference to recent developments at the National Health Insurance Scheme, Mr. President has after due consideration approved the establishment of an independent fact-finding panel to investigate the alleged infractions by the executive secretary and report back within two weeks.”

The terms of the panel headed by Hassan Bukar are to investigate the alleged infractions listed by the NHIS governing council, identify, investigate and make recommendations with regards to issues that led to the unhealthy relationship between the board and the CEO; investigate and make recommendations on the extent of involvement of staff unions’ within the institution as to the current impasse between the governing board and executive secretary; and examine all governance challenges in the NHIS and make appropriate recommendations.

Earlier in the month, the board suspended Yusuf over allegations of corruption and financial infractions.

While announcing Yusuf’s suspension, Enantu Ifenna, chairman of the NHIS governing board, accused him of mismanaging the agency’s funds.

She accused the ES of allegedly inflating the scheme’s 2018 budget, “fraudulently inflating the cost of biometric capturing machines”, and “attempt to illegally execute N30 billion in federal government bonds”.

The board also alleged that Yusuf carried out unauthorised staff travel “in defiance to council directive”, “superfluous arrogation of project vehicles”.

But Yusuf had said he was innocent of the allegations and also argued that his suspension was illegal.

Last year, Isaac Adewole, minister of health, had suspended Yusuf but he was reinstated in February following the intervention of the house of representatives.

His reinstatement triggered criticisms but the federal government had said the development would not stop his probe by the anti-graft agencies.

When he resumed, Yusuf vowed to fight back, accusing some hospitals and insurance companies of ganging up against him for opposing some sharp practices.

He vowed that no amount of smear campaign would deter him from bringing healthcare to the people.