The House of Representatives Committee on Finance has queried the spending of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) on the N152.4 million spent on procurement of facemasks, hand sanitisers, protective wears and hand gloves during COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.
The committee raised the concerns at a public hearing on monitoring revenue generation by government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in Abuja on Monday.
Rep. Nicholas Ossai (PDP-Delta) a member of the committee said that documents available showed that N2.09 million was spent on purchase of toners, questioning the rationale.
He also questioned the scheme’s expenditure of at least N2.4 million on diesel on monthly basis for its head office in Utako, Abuja and office annex in Wuse 11, Abuja.
Responding, Executive Secretary of NHIS, Prof. Nasri Sambo explained that the agency was a strategic purchasing agency by its mandate.
He said the agency also provided more items under its social corporate responsibility for some social workers on the frontline during the peak of the pandemic.
“On the huge expenditure to tunes of millions with respect to the COVID-19 items, we are a National Health Insurance Scheme, we are supposed to be a strategic purchasing agency by mandate.
“During COVID-19, there was a plan of the Ministry of Health on secteorial response to COVID-19 and because we are dealing with healthcare facilities, we all know that at the beginning of COVID-19, most of the healthcare workers abandoned their duty posts because they don’t have items for their protection.
“As part our corporate social responsibility, we identified first line organisations like police and so on; we gave them those items and we also recognised hospitals that have huge enrollment of NHIS enrollees and we supplied them with these items.
“All the documents are available if the lawmakers need them; this expenditure is not restrictive to NHIS, we have been directed to ensure protection of our people,” he said.
On the amount spent on diesel, Sambo said the scheme suffered erratic electricity supply within the period of expenditure.
He said there was need to maintain a cooling system in both offices in Abuja to secure huge infrastructure that required cooling.
“In respect to the toners, NHIS has a total of 38 state offices, 9 zonal offices as well as two offices at Abuja; when we are buying these items, we are not buying them as one toner per purchase.
“We buy them within the threshold to furnish the state and zonal offices that is why you see that the consumption rate is high,” he said.
Earlier, the executive secretary gave highlights of the revenue generation and remittance of the scheme between 2019 and 2021.
According to him, money generated from addition of extra dependents enrolee in 2019 was N33.81 million; N12.88 million in 2020 and N6.8 million so far generated in 2021.
He said the accreditation and registration of Health Management Organisations (HMOs) generated N47.35 million in 2019, N45.5 million in 2020 and N11.49 million so far in 2021.
Sambo said the agency also generated from the tenders paid by contractors N1.61 million in 2019, N620, 000 in 2020 and N700,000 so far in 2021.
“The total revenue generation for 2019 was N32.14 million, for 2020 is N58.9 million and 2021 is N18.5 million.
“We have remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the sum of N20.5 million which represent 25 per cent for the total revenue for 2019, we have remitted N14.7 million which represents 25 per cent for 2020 and for 2021, we have remitted N4.46 million and all the evidences of remittances are encapsulated in this submission,” he said.
The Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Saidu Abdullahi (APC-Niger) who presided over, said the hearing was not to witch hunt but to ensure accountability and block revenue leakages.
Abdullahi said the committee would not hesitate to activate relevant provisions of the law, if any agency of government failed to appear before it.
“We have just started the revenue monitoring session for the year 2021. The objective is to ensure that we shore up the revenge generation of the country.
“As I stated that the country has the capacity to fund the budget size of 13 to 15 trillion, all we need to do is to work together with the Executive, particularly the MDAs to ensure that we block all areas of leakages and ensure they are responsible to the consolidated revenue fund.
“We have just started and we expect to have taken more agencies today but unfortunately, just the NHIS turned up; this exercise is not a child’s play.
“It is in the spirit of measuring the performances of the agencies, in the spirit of ensuring that we mobilise more resources so that the executive will be able to fund the capital without necessarily looking at the angle of borrowing which has become the easiest way out of managing our budget.
“We expected to have Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PTDF) Nigeria Oil Spillage and Detection Response Agency and even the Export Processing Council, but only NHIS turned up.
“We will not take it lightly with any agency. It is not a child’s play. We are here to make this country work and for us to do it, we have to work in collaboration, we have to wok collectively for the good of our people,” he said.
He directed the clerk of the committee to re-invite the agencies that failed to appear, saying that should they fail to appear, appropriate sections of the constitution would be invoked against them.