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N6b withdrawn from NHIS account, says CEO



The Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Mohammed Sambo, at the weekend raised the alarm over the withdrawal of N6 billion from the scheme during covid-19 pandemic without notice.

But, he did not elaborate on the issue.

He said due to inefficiency in past administrations, the scheme lost a lot of its funds. Specifically, about N11bn of its money was inadvertently transferred to the Federation Account in 2014. It has since been tracking the retrieving of the fund.

Also, about N10bn was lost from one of its bank accounts, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is helping it to recover.

He said the scheme is seeking funds to put into strategic investments such as building state and zonal offices, instead of paying huge cost of rent.

Sambo, speaking during a media engagement organised by the NHIS for health reporters in Kaduna, added that the scheme had saved the government N6 billion in deploying the e-NHIS platform, which will make for seamless registration and enrolment of Nigerians.

He said: “The NHIS has 38 offices. Lagos is divided into two states in one. For all the talks that have been going on, that NHIS has a lot of money, almost all these offices are on rental basis. You sit as a Chief Executive Officer of the NHIS and you will just be signing rent. It is not strategic.

“NHIS has lost a lot of its funds largely due to inefficiency. For example, about N11 billion of NHIS fund in a bank account was to be transmitted to the NHIS during transition to TSA, but that money was inadvertently sent to the Federation Account. Since 2014 we have been pursuing this money. I have seen the Minister of Finance and the Accountant General, and a lot of discussions are ongoing as to how to retrieve the money, and I guess there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

“When there was COVID, N6 billion of NHIS money was taken without notice. So, I am hunting all those resources, and we have agreed at the level of the management that the proportion of these money that are recovered will be put in strategic investment. By strategic investment, I mean you have to have your own office at the state level, so that over time, the cost of these rents can go down.

“If we invest the money we use for rent over time, the NHIS will not only be strong in function but will also be strong in the asset base. If you close down NHIS now, apart from the head office, it has nothing.”

He added: “We are deploying the e-NHIS. This e-NHIS has been on the drawing board of the NHIS for a very long time without success. When we came, within one year and some few months, we were able to achieve it. Through government-to-government partnership, we were able to do a cost saving in order to deploy the e-NHIS and we have saved the government N6 billion in its development.

“We are hoping that by the end of this year, the NHIS process will be fully automated. It means that in the comfort of your room, you can use your phone and get into the NHIS to register. You can choose the provider, the HMO, etc.

“We have introduced innovation in financing like the Group Individual and Family Social Health Insurance Programme (GIFSHIP). The programme will ensure coverage of people within the country and even outside the country that can come into the NHIS. This program, when it is fully taken off, even the people in the diaspora can subscribe to it and be paying a premium on behalf of members of their population in the community.

“We are working on a catastrophic health fund for cancer because the money we have accumulated in the health insurance cannot cover chronic diseases. There is a need for special funds, which we are working with some partners to develop. We want to bring the NYSC into health insurance. We want to do coverage for elders. For this, the Minister of Health has constituted a committee to work on how retirees will be covered in the NHIS.”

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