, NAIROBI, Kenya May 3 – The chairman of the National Health Insurance Fund Richard Muga was sent packing on Thursday, barely two hours after he single-handedly announced the suspension of the Chief Executive officer over allegations of mismanagement and dubious payments of millions of shillings to uninspected clinics.
The drama started earlier in the afternoon when Muga chaired a board meeting where he fronted the idea of suspending CEO Richard Kerich and five other managers but, other board members rejected the plan and walked out on him.
He then called journalists who had been waiting outside to brief them on the development, as the board members including Kerich watched from a distance.
“I have called you here this afternoon to announce the suspension of the CEO and five other officials, in view of the latest development and the complaints we have received on the payments to non-inspected clinics and other issues. We have resolved to suspend these officials to pave way for an investigation,” Muga announced.
But before he could finish addressing journalists, the board’s vice chairman Wilson Sossion took over the microphones and dismissed the announcement, saying the chairman’s decision was not binding on all other members.
“It is illegal and not acceptable at all for the chairman to single-handedly purport to suspend the CEO and five other officials. He has no authority to make such a decision without proper consultations with the members. Therefore what he has told you is his position which is not binding on us,” Sossion who sits in the board as a representative of the Kenya National Union of Teachers said.
Their differences played out publicly as they clashed before TV cameras, with the chairman often interjecting his deputy’s assertions.
“Don’t listen to him, he is not the chairman. I am the chairman and I am the only one mandated to make announcements here, forget about what he has said,” Muga said.
As the two traded accusations, Medical Services Permanent Secretary Mary Ngare walked in and took to the platform to give the government’s position.
“I am here to tell you that whatever the chairman of the board has told you is not the right position. I am not aware of any suspension of the CEO or any other official of the NHIF. As far as I am concerned, the NHIF management is intact. It is only the minister who has authority to make any changes here,” she said and warned anyone ignoring the minister that “you cannot ignore the minister, as far as he is in office, he is the Minister of Medical Services and must be respected.”
Muga immediately gave his rejoinder and dismissed the Permanent Secretary’s statement as “interference of the board’s work.”
“She cannot come here and start giving statements yet she does not know what has transpired in the meeting I held. I am the board chairman… in any case I am the one who is supposed to brief her, who has briefed her on the issues she is discussing here with you,” an agitated Muga said, and accused the PS of meddling.
“The PS is part of the problem we are facing here. Where was she when we were holding the meeting here? She is supposed to have been in the meeting,” he said.
Muga then went ahead to state that he was not scared of being sacked or suspended because he was addressing a “serious issue.”
“I am not scared to go home, I have a home, I am not an employee of the board, I am an employee of the Great Lakes University of Kisumu, and I am going ahead and I will brief the minister of all these developments,” he said.
Little did he know that his suspension letter was on the way.
Journalists who were summoned to be addressed by Medical Services Minister Prof Anyang Nyong’o soon after the day’s drama were instead issued with a copy of Muga’s suspension letter.
Part of the letter read: “You have no mandate as chairman to do this; my office is responsible for the appointment of the CEO. While the CEO may make staff changes it has to be with the approval of the board.”
Nyong’o went on to explain to Muga that “I am the only authorised office to make staff changes in institutions that fall under my ministry. From the forgoing I have decided to suspend you as chairman of the board with immediate effect.”
The letter was copied to the acting Head of Public Service Francis Kimemia.