*’He is being probed over alleged N960m fraud’
*’Engages in award of frivolous contracts, training, discriminating transfers of staff’
*No, I’m being punished for refusing monetary request -Yusuf
*Says the minister lacks power to suspend him
More facts have emerged on the controversy surrounding the suspension of the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof Usman Yusuf. The NHIS is a parastatal under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Health.
Contrary to the claim by the suspended NHIS ES and the House of Representatives that Yusuf was being punished for refusing to grant financial requests from the supervising ministry, the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, has given reasons why Yusuf was suspended from office.
Adewole added that Yusuf’s suspension was necessitated by series of petitions written against him, saying that the development was also compounded by the unsatisfactory response from Yusuf.
The minister had in a letter with reference number C.4051/T/132 dated 6th July, 2017, titled “Suspension From Office,” said thus, “I refer to the series of petitions against you which were forwarded for your comments.
“I am to draw your attention to your response which has been considered unsatisfactory, I have therefore directed the setting up of an investigative committee on the various allegations against you.
“Consequently, you are directed to proceed on 3 (three) months suspension with immediate effect to pave way for an uninterrupted investigation, in accordance with Public Service Rule.”
The Daily Times had reported that Yusuf had handed over to an Acting Executive Secretary but reportedly claimed that his refusal to grant monetary requests to the minister was responsible for his suspension.
Meanwhile, the health minister has constituted a committee to investigate the allegations of fraud leveled against the embattled NHIS boss as contained in the letter of suspension issued to him.
The members of the probe panel are as follows: Permanent Secretary – Chairman; Director Hospital Services; Director Human Resources; Representative of Director of State Security and the Representative of Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
Others are the Director Finance and Accounts; Director ICT; Director of Procurement; Head ACTU; STA Hounourable Minister; STA Permanent Secretary; Director Legal while the members of the Secretariat are the Head, Tertiary Hospitals Division; DD (APD) and ACCS (Charity Chibuzo).
The Daily Times further gathered that the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, had written a letter to Adewole on the matter.
In the letter addressed to the health minister with reference number HOSF/SFSO/ODD/E&WP/51680/S.2/T dated June 9, 2017, titled: “Re: The Monumental Fraud, Gross Abuse of Office and Nepotic Acts Inimical To the Set Objectives of the Scheme Happening in NHIS Under the Leadership of Prof Usman Yusuf”, the HOSF asked the minister to carry out necessary action and investigations over the petitions against Yusuf.
The letter which was signed on behalf of the HOSF by the Director, Organization Design and Development, Kehinde Adeyemi, reads in part; “I am directed to forward to the attached letter received in this office from Coordinator of a group called the United Youths Alliance Against Corruption. The HOSF has directed that the petition on ‘monumental fraud, gross abuse of office and nepotic acts’ against the leadership of the NHIS be referred to your ministry for proper investigation and necessary action.”
But a source told The Daily Times that the HOSF had told the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health that Yusuf may not be familiar with public service rules, adding that the HoSF then directed the permanent secretary to find out from the suspended ES if he was not familiar with the public service processes.
The newspaper further learnt that there are series of petitions against Yusuf while he is being probed over his alleged involvement in N960million fraud.
Documents obtained by the Daily Times revealed that Yusuf’s alleged infractions at the NHIS, include award of frivolous contracts, inflated training of members of staff and purchase of SUV totaling N960million.
He was also alleged to have engaged in discriminatory transfer of 100 members of staff out of the headquarters in Abuja to branches in other states.
The embattled NHIS boss was also accused of spending money without recourse to the laid down rules of the establishment and was awarding contracts without following due process.
Yusuf was also said to have took delivery of a Prado Jeep worth N58million which was beyond his threshold of N2.5million.
But Yusuf has faulted his suspension on certain grounds.
Yusuf also claimed that the minister had on 23rd March, 2017 wrote to him, requesting the NHIS to release N197.972million to the ministry from intervention funds to enable the ministry pay the contract awarded for the rehabilitation and equipping of Federal Medical Centres.
But six days after his suspension, Yusuf had in a letter dated 12th July, 2017 addressed to the Minister of Health titled; “Re:Suspension From Office,” acknowledged the receipt of the minster’s letter directing him to proceed on three months suspension with immediate effect to pave way for uninterrupted investigation of petitions against him.
Yusuf , however, told the minister that he was unable to comply with his directive for certain reasons, claiming that the minister lacked the power to suspend him.
He said, “By virtue of the NHIS Act particularly section 4 and 8 therefore, my appointment and removal from office whether by way of suspension or otherwise is at the instance of the President.
“Except removed from office by the President under the circumstances specified in the NHIS Act, my appointment is for a period of five years subject to a further term of the same period at the discretion of the President”.
But Yusuf further gave a contradictory response when he cited section 47 of the NHIS Act, saying that, ” Although you are empowered to give directives of a general nature to the governing council of the Scheme and in the absence of the council, you have Presidential mandate to exercise the powers and functions of the council, but since the powers and functions of the council do not include discipline, suspension from office, the directive in your letter under reference cannot find comfort under the said section or Presidential mandate.”
He added that the petitions which the minister made reference to are currently being investigated by the ICPC.
But the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) in a letter addressed to the Minister of Health, signed by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Ade Ipaye with reference number: SH/OVP/DCOS/LGR&C/FMOH/133, directed Adewole to take necessary action on the matter.
The letter titled, “Re: Petitions Against the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof Usman Yusuf;” referred to the two petitions in which allegations of fraud and abuse of office were levied against Yusuf.
A reliable source further disclosed to The Daily Times that the probe panel has begun its work and Yusuf is expected to subject himself to the probe on the grounds that he is a civil servant.
I’m being punished for refusing to grant monetary request – Yusuf
But Yusuf has claimed that the minister is out to punish him because of his refusal to accede to various financial demands from the ministry.
Yusuf also alleged that from September 2015 to November 2016, the NHIS former acting Executive Secretary (his predecessor) had severally approved between N3million to N15million for the ministry, far above his approval limit of N2.5million.
He claimed that the minister was one of the beneficiaries of these illegal payments. For instance, he claimed that on November 19, 2015, the ministry via a letter with Ref.No.MH.8500/TI, requested N5million from NHIS as support to attend WHO meeting in Chad.
He alleged that the NHIS approved N5.1million on November 23, 2015 for the ministry, out of which N2million was paid directly to the personal account of the minister.
Yusuf further claimed that trouble started in March 18, 2017, when the minister requested for N197million from the scheme “intervention fund” to execute some projects located across seven Federal Medical Centres.
The letter with reference number DFA/CORR/001 was signed by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Mrs Binta Adamu Bello.
He also alleged that the ministry, again requested for $37,838 from NHIS through a letter dated May 12, 2017 with reference number C.2483/11, to enable six members of staff of the ministry to attend the 70th session of the WHO, scheduled to hold in Geneva, Switzerland between May 16 to 31, 2017.
According to Yusuf, he refused to grant the minister’s request, citing the 2008 federal government circular.